Ministry of Agriculture considering several initiatives to strengthen food security in the country

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January 13, 2009

The Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources is considering a direct intervention in the management of commercial food stocks to foster the maintenance of minimum levels of certain critical items for up to 12 weeks to ensure availability in the event of a disruption of supplies.

So stated the Minister, the Hon. Lawrence S. “Larry” Cartwright, in a weekend address to the Rotary Club of West Nassau on ‘Challenges facing agriculture’.

Commercial importers could be offered tax inducements to increase and maintain appropriate storage levels to ensure short-term food supply, he said.

And, the Ministry wants to increase production of selected basic foods to assure the medium term availability of certain basic levels of carbohydrates and protein, Mr. Cartwright said.

The Ministry is also considering:

* increasing the availability of agricultural equipment;
* accelerating the widespread adoption of greenhouse technology;
* promoting the development of crops best suited to the recognised climatic zones;
* increasing the budget for land preparation and feeder farm roads;
* expanding the range of duty-free items that are available to registered farmers;
* creating a land bank to provide for the protection of agricultural lands;
* initiating a tenure system to permit the financing of agricultural entities based on the collateral value of the land; and,
* crop insurance.

Michael Hepburn, President of the Rotary Club of West Nassau, is flanked by Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources the Hon. Lawrence Cartwright (right) and Brian Sager, Lord of Leigh, Past President of the Rotary Club of Fleetwood. About 2,000 farmers and school groups throughout the islands will receive assistance through the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Initiative Soaring Food Prices, Mr. Cartwright said.

Based on their production capacity, farmers and schools with gardens will be given inputs to help them immediately increase their production.

Assistance will include selected seeds, fertilizers and planting material.

These interventions are tailored to respond to the immediate needs of the population affected by rising food prices, Mr. Cartwright said.

They seek also to provide a sound base on which to reactivate agricultural activities and to contribute to the social and economic development of Bahamians, he added.

Too, they are in line with government policies and strategies for coping with soaring food prices.

“We are strongly committed to the pursuit of these initiatives in keeping with the spirit of our vision to provide self sufficiency and food security for this country in as short a time as possible,” Mr. Cartwright said.

At no other time in the history of The Bahamas, he said, “has the urgency to attain a reasonable level of food security been more critical.”

Major producers of primary food products such as wheat and rice have responded to rising prices by limiting exports, he told Rotarians.

“A net importer of food, The Bahamas is more than most countries, susceptible to the effects of rising food prices and insecurity of guaranteed supplies of food,” he said.

The hundreds of millions of dollars in food imported into The Bahamas each year, he said, “indicates the vast potential for agriculture.”

However, “there are impediments and challenges preventing this potential from being fully exploited,” he added.

Agriculture must become modernised in such a way that it is economically efficient and is able to sustain incomes that are comparable to those in other sectors of the economy, Mr. Cartwright said.

Also, it must be able to provide high-quality food at prices comparable to the imported products.

There is a significant gap between total production and the production currently marketed through the public marketing system, he said.

Small producers “are severely disadvantaged by their inability to market their production.”

Presently, the marketing of agricultural production in The Bahamas does not incorporate modern scientific principles that recognise the dynamics of supply and demand, he said.

“Bahamian agriculture has been plagued with gluts at certain times of year due to over-production on the one hand, and a poor distribution system on the other.

“Seasonal production in a country like The Bahamas, that has a favourable climate all year round, ought to be a thing of the past, given modern techniques of irrigation and crop husbandry,” Mr. Cartwright said.

Photo: Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources the Hon. Lawrence Cartwright (left) meets Brian Sager, Lord of Leigh, Past President of the Rotary Club of Fleetwood.


(BIS photo/Derek Smith)

News date : 01/13/2009    Category : Business

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