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By ALISON LOWE
A company that grocery industry sources last night said was affiliated with Bahamas Food Services and its principal, Ben Frisch, has signed a preliminary agreement to purchase the majority 78 per cent stake in City Markets held by the BSL Holdings investor group in a deal which, if it goes through, will shake-up the Bahamian retail and wholesale sectors.
Derek Winford, City Markets chief executive, confirmed in a statement yesterday afternoon that a Bahamian company, Associated Grocers of the Bahamas, had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to purchase BSL Holdings' 77.782 per cent interest in the troubled 11-store supermarke ...
One of The Bahamas' largest poultry producers is expected to see its orders reach up to 80 percent within the next two months.
"Within the last two weeks we increased our chick orders by 30 percent. So in September, we will be back up to 80 percent. By November, we should be back up to full speed here at the farm, so we are very encouraged," said Lance Pinder, operations manager at the Abaco Big Bird Poultry Farm.
"We have gotten a lot of small orders because I guess they have to get their customers back. People do look for Abaco Big Bird Chicken. We have gotten quite a few calls from wholesalers and retailers in Nassau."
Pinder confirmed to Guardian Business that just a few months ago, the company had considered shutting down its operations because business was extremely bad. In fact, the farm's production was down by 60 percent.
"Despite being open for the past 17 years, business had gotten worse in recent years. Our production was down by 60 percent," he explained.
He noted how the company's bottom line was significantly impacted when import controls were removed two years ago. This is in addition to high operational costs and natural disasters that negatively impacted the firm.
"It has definitely affected our bottom line. After they got rid of import controls, we lost a lot of money that year because we didn't even know that was going to happen. At the time, we were just adjusting to the market but still it was not enough to keep this place going," Pinder revealed.
"Hurricane Irene impacted us badly last year. On top of imports coming in easily, our operational costs are going up so it has been a two-edged sword that has been cutting through us. BEC is a cost that you can't do a lot about. We are also getting an increase in foreign competition from places like Brazil, coupled with our costs going up at the same time."
Solomon's, Super Value, Asa H. Pritchard, Phil's Food Service and the D'Albenas agency are just some of the places that Abaco Big Bird Chicken is supplying.
Pinder further shared with Guardian Business that the farm is encouraged because it has an all-natural product, in comparison to foreign produce. He explained that purchasing local is healthier, and is more cost-effective overall.
"It's really not that much more. It probably costs a restaurant five cents more on a dinner to serve Abaco Big Bird chicken. You're talking about five, ten cents a pound. And that's competing with the lower grade chicken out of the United States. If you bring in the top quality brands out of the U.S., if you are paying duties and are not smuggling, our chicken is actually cheaper except for leg quarters. They are sold below cost and are undervalued," he said.
On average, Abaco Big Bird Poultry Farm can produce 6,000 birds daily and up to three million pounds annually.
V. Alfred Gray, minister of agriculture and marine resources, said there is presently a policy in place where the Bahamian buyer must prove that at least 30 percent of its chicken and eggs are bought locally, before a permit is even considered for the buyer to bring in the remaining 70 percent.
Earlier this week, Gray said he would consider a ban on certain imports if Bahamian farmers prove they can produce food in sufficient quantities at a reasonable price.
"We are encouraging Bahamian farmers in the production of Bahamian foods. I'd rather help a Bahamian out, even if the product is a few cents more, because at the end of the day it's our job to keep Bahamians employed," according to Gray.
On a recent morning radio show on the new Guardian Radio station, a host chastised politicians for lacking the will to address various issues concerning young men. The fact that in that morning's Nassau Guardian was a story on the government giving $1 million in grants for urban outreach programs targeted mostly to young people, young men in particular, seems to have eluded the host.
Perhaps it was too much to ask that the host read even the newspaper owned by the company operating the station on which the host blabbered the vapid commentary.
Here again we were treated to a shop-worn cliché about politicians. It is one in a collection of clichés and lazy thinking. Others include, "the country (it could be any country) is going to hell", which has been a refrain since the Treaty of Westphalia codified the nation-state in 1648.
Alas, with notable exceptions, this is typical fare on talk radio where fact-checking has also become a dying art. This medium of mass communication is littered with channels of mass misinformation and downright disinformation by some.
More distressing is the uninformed commentary by those one assumes should know better. Recently, there was an unexpectedly disappointing letter to the editor on the state of political affairs in the country including the 2012 election cycle.
As society holds academics to a high standard of intellectual rigor, one expects more balanced and substantive analysis from someone in academia. One also expects analysis that is fact-driven and properly researched.
The letter was not a well-crafted intellectual argument. It was disingenuous. Not because the individual is ill-willed. Indeed, the writer appears well-meaning in terms of concern for the country. It was disingenuous because it indulged in a series of gross overstatements and cavalier disregard of readily available facts.
The letter was lacking in historical and global perspective, yet another example of navel-gazing with little contextualizing of domestic affairs within the broader scope of global current affairs.
The letter writer posited: "One could argue (and I certainly would) that for four of the past five years, there was no governance at all, but just more of this sparring in the House of Assembly, just more trading of insults back and forth across the floor, while the world got on with changing its foundations all around us and the ground on which our society and economy rest crumbles away."
Such commentary is neither convincing nor dispositive. Any casual observer of the fierce parliamentary debates in a host of parliamentary democracies including the UK would view our political back-and-forth as tame.
The often vituperative nature of Australian politics would make the heads of many Bahamians spin. This is not new for Australia. It has a history of rough-and-tumble politics. Yet, Australia is often viewed as one of the better run countries.
To provide as evidence for our supposed lack of governance, the fierce nature of political debate would mean that Great Britain has not been governed for centuries. In democracies like South Korea and Japan, parliamentary sessions have degenerated into fist-fights. Are these countries also without governance?
But the claim of "no governance" belies other realities. That not a single civil servant was laid off during the Great Recession was not an easy feat. If more academics and civil servants were laid off in The Bahamas over the past five years, as has been the case in other countries, perhaps more of them would have a deeper appreciation of how tough it was to hold the country together.
Not only were no civil servants laid off. There were also no cuts in salaries and benefits, and increments are on the horizon. It is shocking how cavalier is the analysis of some when they are not daily confronted with the enormous challenges of governing including prioritizing the apportionment of limited resources.
This supposed period of "no governance" achieved: $25 million more in scholarships for students attending The College of The Bahamas, the retraining of nearly 4,000 moderate income Bahamians, the introduction of a prescription drug benefit, the introduction of a landmark unemployment benefit, millions invested in new health facilities, new entrepreneurial programs for young people, and the most comprehensive upgrade of critical infrastructure in the nation's history inclusive of potable water and infrastructure urgently needed by Family Islanders.
None of these accomplishments magically appeared. They required leadership and governance. That the writer mentioned not one of these is more than being uninformed. Intellectual honesty requires an acknowledgment of facts.
The writer declared: "I have heard absolutely nothing from any party about what the future holds... The FNM has focussed very much on vague generalities like proven leadership and deliverance, and what has been done, largely in material, infrastructural terms, in the very recent past (one or two years at most)."
"Absolutely nothing"? This is intellectually disingenuous. Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham's over two dozen rally addresses since the beginning of the year contain considerably more than the usual political boilerplate. They are dense with policy and programmatic proposals.
Of note is a discussion of his vision for The Bahamas including his party's philosophy of development and ideas for urban redevelopment. His remarks in North Eleuthera addressed the balancing of domestic and foreign direct investment.
Either the letter writer has not bothered to research these or is being purposely misleading. If one has a view of the prime minister's proposals that would be fair commentary. But to claim that his speeches are mostly about sloganeering and infrastructure is exceedingly unfair and disingenuous.
The prime minister has proposed the development of Jubilee Bahamas (a 10-year National Plan), the Public Arts Project, a Parks and Recreation Authority, the Summer Institute for Boys, the Youth Development Centre, a Heritage Tourism Initiative, a Native Food Market for Over-the-Hill, an Economic and Development Council of Bahamians Overseas, an expanded mission for BTVI, and a further upgrade of post offices to government service centers.
The FNM's manifesto details proposals ranging from increasing the minimum wage, introducing National Catastrophic Health Insurance, the promotion of aquaculture and mariculture, the development of head start programs to improve literacy, numeracy and fundamental computer skills for all children by age five, the provision of "a school place or a stipend of up to $1,500 for all five-year-olds in approved educational institutions", a large-scale program of return migration to the Family Islands, a Bahamas Youth Development Corps, and others.
Again, not a single one of these was mentioned by the letter writer. What conclusion might one reach about the utter and wholesale exclusion of these facts?
Leaving aside the letter writer, it seems the self-imposed burden of some of the supposed cognoscenti and literati in developing countries is to decry the backwardness of our governance.
There is the regular excoriation of our politicians, our political process, our elections and our governance. There is the "dismay" and "outrage" at the way opposing political partisans tear the other side down.
How different this must be from more civilized countries supposedly so much better governed than The Bahamas? Perhaps these countries include a hyper-partisan United States or European Community states in the midst of a dire economic and political crisis related to their supposedly superior governance even as they slash their budgets and look to the International Monetary Fund for help.
In the frenzy of the enlightened denunciation by some of our supposed backwardness, perhaps they can offer more credible and cost-accounted policy prescriptions. Some of them might even enter frontline politics and discover the demands of governance.
There should be an immersion program called "Prime Minister for a Day". One imagines that just a day in the prime minister's chair would give rise to more insightful and convincing commentary than we are daily treated to in various media.
Politicians deserve neither pity nor unfettered adulation. But neither should they take seriously the simplistic assaults on their service in office, and the lack of acknowledgement of their accomplishments by those who do not accord them such common courtesy and basic fairness.
It is an intellectual conceit and a conceit of ignorance to fail to acknowledge such contributions by those politicians who love The Bahamas no less than those who breezily opine on affairs of state in pursuit of a hypothesis unconcerned with facts.
Funeral Service for Jerome Benjamin Major, O.B.E., age 78 years, of Windy Castle, Winton Heights, formerly of Roses, Long Island, will be held on Friday December 2nd, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. at St. Matthew's Anglican Church, Shirley and Church Streets. Officiating will be Father Crosley Walkine, assisted by Deacon Lynden Douglas. Interment will follow in Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church Cemetery, East Shirley Street.
Left to cherish his memories are; his loving wife of 51 years: Avis Major; his adopted children: Horace, Tony, Tasha and Yogi; one brother: Lorenzo Major; one sister: Ella Major; six grand children: Maya, Justin, Brittany, Aliya, little Yogi and Andrew Miller; eight sisters-in-law: Evelyn D'Aguilar, Heather Rahim of New York, Phyllis Shakes of Baltimore, Maryland, Shirley Francis, Sadie Miller, Rose Miller of Miramar, Florida and Sally Shakes of London, England and Corrie Major of New York; four brothers-in-law: Adrian D'Aguilar, Easton Miller of Jamaica, Zai Rahim of New York and Joseph Francis of Miramar, Florida; three daughters-in-law: Schevon, Karen and Tanya; nephews and nieces: Tasha and Kevin Dorsett, Lola and Eddie Rogers, Racquel and Christopher Patterson, Tara and Omar Rahim, Oliver and Lamar Miller, Rudy Francis, Michelle and Bill Jeffreys, Carol Dyer, Troy and Nicholas Rogers, Maureen Shakes, Gloria Berchell, David and Margie Major, Reuben Major, Sandra R. Major, Joyce Johnson, Sarah and Douglas Ausberry, Jackie and Enrique Sewer, Courtney Major, Douglas Major, Doris McCray, Cecil, Charles and Phillip Major, Princess Major, Elizabeth McDonald, Eriamae Saunders, Annemarie Archer and Reitha Curtis, Sandra Major, Paulette and Stephen Humes, Karen and Michael Belfield, Lauren and Bill Higgs, Mark Miller and Rodney Lionel Dean and family; other family and friends including: The Rt. Hon. Hubert Alexander Ingraham and Mrs. Ingraham, Rt. Hon. Frank Watson, Rt. Hon. Perry Gladstone Christie and Mrs. Christie, Manfred and Mae Ginter and family, Gaynell Bullard, Hycianth Nicolls, Thelma Fernander, Bob and Angela Carroll, Ian Mitchell, J.M. and Laverne Pinder, Arlene Ritchie, Harvey and Betsy Morrison, Velma Cartwright, Fairy Kraft, Kirklyn Marche, Dr. Patricia Rogers and Emily Rogers, Dr. Quentin and Mrs. Richmond, David Burrows and family, Carlton and Carla Seymour and family, Nigel Bethel and family, Jerome Young and family, Andrew Rogers and family, the staff of Centerville Food Market, Grace, Vanessa, Freddy, Ace, Charmaine, Bendy, Kenny, Toya, Jackie, Samson and Annalee; Food Delite staff: Anne, Rosie, Sista, Shorty and especially Maria, Jeffrey Beneby and family, Rosemary Beneby and family, the management and staff of Beneby & Company, Chartered Accountants, the management and staff of Harry B. Sands Law firm, Raymond Rogers and family, Robert Pritchard and family, Caleb Hepburn and family, Karen Archer and family, Robert d'Albenas and family, Glen Pritchard and family, Phillip Lightbourne, Tracy and Sidney Godet,
Mike Cartwright and family, Gussie Turnquest and family, Walter Wells and family, Pat Treco and family, Trevor Kelly and family, Rupert Roberts, Camille and Damien Gomez, the American Embassy, Ship Liaison Office and the Coast Guard Division, the management and staff of d'Albenas Agency, the management and staff of Bahamas Food Services, the management and staff of Bahamas Wholesale Agency, the management and staff of Lowes Wholesale, the management and staff of Lightbourne Trading, the management and staff of Thompson Trading, the management and staff of Phil's Food Store, the management and staff of Caribbean Bottling Co, the management and staff of Jamaica Bahama, the management and staff of Nassau Diary, the management and staff of Kelly's Home Centre, the management and staff of Kingston Miami, the management and staff of Ocho Rios Miami, the management and staff of Palmdale Service Station, the management and staff of Hardings' Lock Smith, the management and staff of Nassau Pest Control, the management and staff of The Nassau Guardian, the management and staff of The Tribune, the management and staff of The Punch, the management and staff of Nassau Underwriters, the management and staff of Bahamas First, the management and staff of R.H. Curry, the management and staff of United Shipping Company, the management and staff of Wendell Jones & the Love 97 Media family, the management and staff of Bonaventure Lab, the management and staff of The Amoury Company, the management and staff of Battery and Tyre, the management and staff of Paradise Bottling, the management and staff of Aquapure, the management and staff of M & E Limited, the management and staff of First Caribbean International Bank, Palmdale and Shirley Street branches, the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba, Gurney Pinder of Spanish Wells, Terry Bain and the winter residents of Farmers and the Exuma Cays, the management and staff of Nassau Paper Company, Vaughn Higgs, Paul Major and family, Dwayne Adderley and family, William Mortimer, Harry Bowleg, Jeff Lloyd, Sammy Taylor, Brendon Watson and Agatha Watson, Tom Watson, Douglas Turnquest and family, Michael Turnquest, Nisha Miller, Gary Sands and family, Retired Chief Superintendant Steven Seymour, Sergeant Terrance Moxey and family, Sergeant Franklyn Ferguson, Inspector Dencil Barr, the Dean family, the Darville family, the Major family, the Mortimer family, the Long Island Association and others too numerous to mention.
Special thanks to Doctors: Dr. I. Francis of the Heart Centre, Dr. Darville at ICU, Doctors Hospital and all the nursing staff of the ICU at Doctors Hospital. Especially, Nurse Shobhana Nair and special thanks to: Sandra Major, Mr. and Mrs Fred Ginter, Gaynell Bullard, Thelma Fernander, Camille and Damien Gomez, Nisha Major, Maria Solomon , Carlton Seymour, Trevor Kelly, Jerome Young and all who played an integral part in our hour of bereavement. Many thanks to those who have travelled from abroad.
Friends may pay their last respects at Butlers' Funeral Homes & Crematorium, Ernest and York Streets on Thursday December 1st, 2011, from 10:00 a.m until 4:30 p.m. and at the church on Friday December 2nd, 2011, from 10:00 a.m. until service time.
There has been 'a marked increase' in the number of shanty towns on New Providence over the last two years and the populations have grown "exponentially", a report completed by researchers in the Department of Environmental Health has found.
According to the report, titled 'Haitian shanty village locations in New Providence', there are at least 15 of these illegal communities on the island.
The report was handed in to authorities in the ministry several weeks ago, but has not yet been released to the public.
The details are being released by The Nassau Guardian today.
Minister for the Environment Kenred Dorsett said yesterday the government recognizes the seriousness of the shanty town problem.
Dorsett said he intends to formally release the report this week. He said in some cases, there will be prosecutions connected to the existence of these illegal communities.
Researchers found that there is a "marked indifference to the extremely unhealthy conditions by those that occupy the shanties".
Many of the former residents of Mackey Yard, which was destroyed by fire more than two years ago, have built off Milo Butler Highway with no building code, no permit and no inspection regime, the report said.
The researchers also found that there is an abundant use of Bahamian pine trees for the purpose of producing coal for commercial purposes.
They said commerce is alive and well in many of the areas surveyed. Liquor stores, convenience shops, web shops, livestock, cock fights and coal production were all noticed.
The report warns of a serious and growing threat to public health.
Researchers said "the presence of discarded human usage, waste, combined with the presence of domestic livestock is evident".
They warned, "In time, many of the animals from these yards will enter the food chain -- as owners of the livestock observed in one particular shanty -- and be sold to grocery and wholesale meat outlets as well as [used for] their own consumption."
When asked if he was aware what his animals were consuming, and that the animals may be contaminated with microorganisms from human excrement, one livestock owner said he saw nothing wrong with the animals consuming the discarded, spoiled food and human waste, the report said.
It said the teams of researchers observed, in almost every shanty town, the presence of human and animal waste.
It appears to be a cultural norm for the occupants of the shanties to "construct" their abodes with living and sanitary structures functioning as separate units, researchers concluded.
"The disposal of human waste, in particular, feces, present several primary public health concerns..." the report said.
Researchers said the conditions of shanty towns and the increasing populations afford "optimal conditions for increases in vector activity, as well as an increase in the disease organisms the vector are hosts to".
The report said the Haitian migration, and subsequent squatting, are focused primarily in New Providence and the Family Islands with larger population concentrations like Abaco and Andros.
"It was observed that most, if not all of these shanties are government crown land, issued to individual Bahamian citizens and families for the purpose of agriculture and horticulture," the report said.
"However, in most cases they are blighted with overuse of the soil, and in other instances, contamination of the water lens beneath them, as was noted in the first Haitian village survey two years ago.
"These communities are informally organized in illegally constructed dwellings without government-issued building permits, Environmental Health-issued sanitation certificates, and typically water sources that may be suspect..."
Researchers said an increasing trend is the increase in the number of Bahamians (people who claim to be Bahamian citizens based on one parent being of Haitian progeny) while others claim outright Bahamian ancestry.
"Several of the respondents to the research inquiries demonstrated gross indifference to personal health risks associated with the act of discarding refuse and human waste," the report said.
Researchers also documented a number of other public health concerns.
o Today's National Review section takes a more in depth look at the shanty town problem and the findings of the team of researchers.
By ALISON LOWE
TWENTY-four Phil's Food Services employees were out of a job on new year's eve.
Explaining the decision, Phil Lightbourne, owner of the Gladstone Road grocery retail/wholesaler, said the staff were all part time employees who were taken on specifically for the Christmas period and some of them had also broken company rules.
According to the businessman, the lay-offs do not indicate trouble at the company, which still intends to go ahead with expansion plans in 2011.
* SEE TRIBUNE BUSINESS FOR THE FULL STORY
The Bahamas will not be significantly impacted by an expected increase in food prices in the United States, according to a local supermarket executive.
Super Value President Rupert Roberts said a severe drought that has impacted the United States' corn industry will lead to a six percent increase in food prices in that jurisdiction.
He shared with Guardian Business that the United States is only one of the country's suppliers, noting that Super Value also purchases products from other international markets.
"With the drought affecting the U.S., we will just move to other markets around the world. There may be some items of choice that the consumer wants. However, I really don't expect the drought in the U.S. to affect The Bahamas at all," he explained.
While he admitted that an increase would affect dairy products, as corn is a significant component of cattle feed in the U.S., his milk items come from places like Brazil and Peru.
"For instance, we get our corn from Brazil as opposed to the U.S. We are now importing cream and condensed milk from Peru. We shift markets and bring in containers from New Zealand, Canada and wherever else that is cheaper at the time," Roberts said.
Super Value's chief noted that he spends over $100 million on imports. However, he pointed out that his business does a lot of local shopping through local wholesalers.
"There are ten conglomerates that own the food industry. Their prices are better than the domestic prices in the U.S. if we were to import through other sources. That's why we do a great deal of purchasing through local wholesalers," Roberts added.
Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister V. Alfred Gray acknowledged that the Bahamian food bill, which is impacted significantly by the cost of imports from the U.S., has remained unchanged this year in the $500 million range.
Earlier this week, Gray said he would consider a ban on certain imports if Bahamian farmers can prove they could produce food in sufficient quantities at a reasonable price.
"I intend to stop the imports if that must happen, so I beg them to cooperate. We are encouraging farmers to prove they can produce, whether it's farm produce, poultry or eggs, in sufficient quantity at a reasonable price. It is this minster's intention to do as much as is legally possible to avoid import of that same product," he shared.
However, the minister admitted that there are some cases where massive imports may be necessary if The Bahamas is unable to produce the quantity that would supply certain businesses. In those instances, companies would have to have specialty permits.
Bahamas - Fresh, plump, ripe eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions,
pumpkin, sweet potato, yam and even spinach... all locally grown... all
served up in restaurants and hotels and sold in grocery stores around
the country... Can you imagine that? A partnership between the Ministry of
Tourism's Culinary Division and the Ministry of Agriculture, and the
'Buy Fresh, Buy Bahamian' campaign, aims to make this a reality.
a recent trip to Andros where local chefs, purchasing agents, food
store owners, food wholesalers and farmers came together to not only see
first-hand the quality of local produce and livestock, but to discuss
ways to get those products in local restaurants and in local stores,
that reality is one step closer.
Atlantis Executive Sous Chef Michael Adderley, who also currently serves...
Officials from both Panama and The Bahamas are optimistic that trade between the two nations will be on the rise in the coming years.
The Consul General for Panama David McGrath is reporting daily inquiries from food and retail wholesalers. As the products improve in quality, entrepreneurs are coming to realize the cost benefits of doing business out of Panama's massive and growing free zone.
"I receive inquiries regarding food, products like T-shirts and other clothing, linens, used car parts and electronics," he told Guardian Business. "More and more seems to be happening, and I think trade is increasing."
Winston Rolle, the chief executive officer of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC), said plans are still in the works to visit Panama on a trade delegation.
He admitted that BCCEC's annual general meeting and the election put them behind, but he provided assurances that "all of that is on the table".
He agreed that Panama is now emerging as a credible
alternative to the U.S. when it comes to imports to The Bahamas. He believes the most significant hurdle is proper shipping lines, noting there could be tremendous business opportunities for those with an eye to connect the two nations in a more efficient way.
"We're finding there are a lot more things for people to take advantage of from Panama as an alternative to the U.S.," he added.
McGrath went so far as to suggest that Panama and The Bahamas should invest in proper aircraft, such as the DC-3, to transport products between the two countries.
He told Guardian Business that a two-tier structure exists in the free zone.
If you're a one-time customer going there for shopping, he said, the rate for goods is dramatically different than if someone purchased mass quantities.
The potential of the Panama Free Zone is expected to be top of the agenda when the BCCEC visits later this year.
"I've lined the BCCEC up with contacts down here. I believe they are trying to generate some local interest. Everyone is coming back positive, as long as you get up and go," the consul general explained.
McGrath attributed the rise of Copa Airlines as a major reason behind the rising interest in commerce.
Last year, Copa increased its direct flights in Panama to four days per week. The Bahamas saw a 40 percent hike in arrivals from Latin America between June and July of last year.
"We are very satisfied and happy with the performance of the route and we are making the studies necessary to try and work for daily frequency," said Marco Ocando, vice president of marketing and communications at Copa. "We're pushing for it, but the route is doing the job itself."
Executives at Copa have identified language differences and general awareness of Latin America to be temporary barriers to future growth.
Senior government officials within the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources are reporting that a number of food wholesalers are still not complying with the country's regulations.
V. Alfred Gray confirmed to Guardian Business that he met with approximately 13 entities last week. This number, he said represents 75 percent of the country's food wholesalers. Out of that number, Gray noted that only seven of them are complying with Bahamian law.
"However, unless all of them do, it will not affect the bottom line because the larger purchasers use approximately 700 to 800 cases per week. So if all of them buy 30 percent of its 200 to 300 cases per week, I would think that would be a good start because the Bahamian producer will inevitably not be able to produce on a constant basis all the eggs and chicken that are required, we understand that. I thought that it represented approximately 75 percent of the purchasing wholesalers. Most of the major ones were present. That was encouraging," he explained.
Gray said there is presently a policy in place where the Bahamian buyer must prove that at least 30 percent of its chicken and eggs are bought locally, before a permit is even considered for them to bring in the remaining 70 percent.
Earlier this week, Gray said he would consider a ban on certain imports if Bahamian farmers prove they could produce food in sufficient quantities at a reasonable price.
"I intend to stop the import if that must happen, so I beg them to cooperate. We are encouraging farmers to get involved in the produce of Bahamian foods. I'd rather help a Bahamian out, even if their product is a few cents more because at the end of the day, it's our job to keep Bahamians employed," according to Gray.
"The policy of the Bahamian government going forward is simply this, wherever Bahamians can produce whether it's farm produce, poultry or eggs in sufficient quantity at a reasonable price it is this minister's intention to do as much as is legally impossible to avoid import of that same product."
However, Gray admitted that there are some cases where massive imports may be necessary if The Bahamas is unable to produce the quantity that would supply certain businesses. In those instances, companies would have to have specialty permits.
"KFC cooks approximately 8,000 pounds of chicken daily with all of their outlets, so there is no way that any Bahamian producer could keep them satisfied. So when we spoke to the imposition of non-import, there are some people whose import will have to be constant. That's the arrangement we have," he added. "I am talking about those who are buying for resale. That's basically the target market. I am inviting farmers to consider keeping the agreement that was made. I don't intend to close my eyes to the possibility of Bahamians going out of business and that's not something that I would like to see happening."
He acknowledged that the Bahamian food bill, chiefly from the U.S., has remained unchanged this year in the $500 million range.
The minister said he strongly encourages local agriculture to drive industry and job growth, and unless the government imposes bans or severely high duties, the country will always be starved for food producers.