The real price of food

Friday March 29 2019
farm4 pic

Michael J. Ssali

The main idea in today’s column has been derived from an article titled “The True Cost of Food” which I stumbled on last Sunday in an online newsletter --- Sustainable Food Trust.
Its opening sentence reads: “We pay for food in many ways, not just at the checkout; but the true cost varies according to how the food is produced and how well or poorly it contributes to a healthy diet.”
The amount of money we pay for food in the local market or at the farm gate is in most cases actually much lower than what we pay for it in the long run.
How the farmers produce the food often leads to consumers meeting other costs which make its price actually higher.
Mindless use of pesticides during food production could lead to health issues for the food consumers and huge medical bills in the long run, all of which can be counted as the total cost of the food that was originally purchased from the market.
If a mother unknowingly buys tomatoes contaminated with pesticides or other substances, her entire family members who consume the tomatoes are likely to fall sick and end up seeking medical treatment.
So, to the original price of the tomatoes, we can add the money paid to boda boda transporters of the sick to the hospital, and then the medical bills, to get the overall price of the tomatoes that she purchased.
Food commodities produced by applying farming practices that damage the soil, the environment, biodiversity or endanger public health are heavily paid for by consumers as individuals or by the public in form of taxes.
We always pay for food related health diseases which actually make our food far more expensive than many have ever imagined.
Destruction of natural forests and wetlands by farmers to create space for food production, might make food a little cheaper today but it will cost us huge sums years later for the resulting environment restoration efforts as water and rains become scarcer and the temperatures get unbearable.
We must therefore produce good, clean food using environmentally friendly practices.