Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Agriculture key to Grand Bahama growth

Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture representative calls for a combined effort in developing agriculture in The Bahamas. Grand Bahama offers perfect opportunity for growth in the sector

The Bahamas Investor Magazine


Agriculture could deliver a much-needed boost to Grand Bahama’s economy, according to the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).

Against a backdrop of rising food prices, it is crucial that The Bahamas’ increases agricultural production, improves on self-sufficiency and enhances its competitiveness in the export market, according to IICA representative Dr Marikis Alvarez.

Agriculture accounts for just two per cent of The Bahamas’ $7.4 billion gross domestic product and, from 1997 to 2007, the country doubled its spending on vegetable imports to reach a total of $100 million.

Addressing attendees at the Grand Bahama Business Outlook conference held earlier in the year, Dr Alvarez said that Grand Bahama had two important factors–fertile soil and innovative people in the sector–which could help the island grow its economy. “Tropical items are in demand, Grand Bahama can play its part,” he said.

To take advantage of the country’s agricultural potential, the IICA, which has consulted with the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corp, as well as local producers, is advising that national policies focus on research, strengthening technology in the sector and raising awareness of the employment opportunities available.

“[The Bahamas] is at crisis level when it comes to agriculture,” said Dr Alvarez. “There are not enough people in the field. We are not injecting funds into it. We need a multi-disciplinary approach. It is hard for the farmers to do it by themselves.

“Agriculture alone has 240 professions in it. It is one of the areas that is highly researched around the world–today is a new era in agriculture.”

In 2010, the government launched its five-year strategic plan for agriculture and fisheries to address issues in production, processing, distribution and marketing of food. The plan includes a Backyard Gardening programme, which encourages families to start their own gardens.

The government has so far issued more than 4,000 backyard gardening kits to help Bahamians grow their own food, which Dr Alvarez believes could be a potential source of income for households that sell the excess to local traders.

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