Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bahamas Agriculture News: ...The number of Bahamian farmers decreased by 90 per cent over the last 40 years... ...While Bahamians seem to become more supportive of locally grown products


Tribune Business Reporter

THERE has been a 90 per cent decrease in Bahamian farmer numbers over the last 40 years, it was disclosed yesterday, with insurance said to be one of the "major concerns" for the industry locally.

Sekani Nash, production manager at Lucayan Tropical, in an interview with Tribune Business yesterday, said the Bahamas was often impacted by hurricanes and, while farmers spend a lot of money in the ground, there was not always a guaranteed return.

Mr Nash told Tribune Business: "Farmers spend a lot of money in the ground, and it's not always a guaranteed return on that. To have even minimal insurance, that would cover at least the cost of seeds if something goes wrong. Here, if you put something in the ground, you give a good prayer to God and hope for the best. It's definitely a major challenge.

"The industry is just not at the level where that is a necessity now, even though it should be. The industry itself is still too small for insurers to say they can see a profit in it for them; that is the unfortunate part. Only until we grow the industry will anything change. Right now we are just under 1,000 farms in the Bahamas compared to the 1960s, when there were about 10,000. Over the last 40 years there has been a 90 per cent decrease in the industry itself."

In a recent interview with Tribune Business, Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources, Larry Cartwright, said the Government was still moving forward with plans for a contributory disaster relief insurance programme for farmers, with the assistance of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Mr Nash questioned whether the Government was truly committed to reducing agricultural imports. "The unfortunate reality is how far will the Government go to increase agricultural imports when they make money off the imports," he said.

"No matter how much lip service they spend, it's only lip service. It seems like they are only going to do enough to keep it where it is. Imports is where the Government makes its money, and registered farms get tax breaks on bringing in certain equipment."

Mr Nash said that as a young farmer, land availability was also a great concern. "As a young farmer, one of the greatest concerns is land availability," he added.

"The Government has made land available, but as a young farmer even if I was to get land from the Government, then I have to find money, someone who would believe in my idea for me to run a farm.

"There is no lease to own. Land is the one collateral that is like gold in any business. To have someone lease you land and you still don't have any collateral makes it difficult for you as a farmer starting out."

Mr Nash noted that distribution was a major challenge for farmers in the Family Islands, as products usually take days to get to stores and, ultimately, loose their freshness.

He said that over the last five years, Bahamians seem to become more supportive of locally grown products, but admitted that "it's still not where it should be".

March 02, 2012