THE Bahamas produces only 10 per cent of what it consumes, according to Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister V Alfred Gray, who recently told the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) that one of the main challenges facing the country was making agriculture an attractive option.
Minister Gray was invited to visit the Headquarters of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) in order to adjust the organisation’s projects to the policies adopted by the government. During his visit, Mr Gray met with the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of Costa Rica, Gloria Abraham, and also visited the Tropical Agriculture Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE). Minister Gray stated that one of the main challenges facing his country was how to make agriculture a more attractive option, especially to young people.
“We do not have a developed agricultural sector; we produce only 10 per cent of what we consume,” he said. “But we are growing gradually and hope that IICA’s presence in the Bahamas will help us make further progress,” he said.
IICA is already implementing activities related to several of the areas mentioned by Mr Gray. Recently, two specialists were sent to work on the modernisation of the national agricultural health system, and a market information specialist will be undertaking a mission to the country within the next few days.
Mr Gray expressed interest in a small ruminants programme that IICA will be implementing with the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), and in becoming a member of CARDI. The Minister also asked IICA for assistance with the equipping of a laboratory for plant, animal, and food safety analysis, as well as information on bio-energy.
The Director General of IICA, V�ctor M. Villalobos, placed the Institute’s technical capabilities at Minister Gray’s disposal, and informed him that regional projects were already under way related to agricultural health, agribusiness, and market information, among other topics.
“With respect to the improvement of food production, the objective will be to implement initiatives whose impact will be felt in the short term, and that make it possible to lower the import bill. We have access to the international research centres, germplasm, crop improvement techniques, and other tools on which we will draw to promote agriculture in the Bahamas,” Villalobos pointed out.
During his visit to Costa Rica, the Minister of Agriculture of the Bahamas met with his counterpart Gloria Abraham. The Costa Rican minister stressed the importance of drafting a road map for the agricultural sector, which, in the case of Costa Rica, is contained in the Agrifood Policy.
“It was prepared with contributions from a number of academics, and consultations were held with stakeholders to ensure that it reflected their concerns,” she pointed out.
The need to stimulate agricultural insurance and credit, and the importance of promoting planning of the harvesting and sale of products were other points addressed by the ministers.
During his visit to CATIE, the Permanent Secretary for Agriculture of the Bahamas, Anthony McKinney, highlighted the need to further promote the teaching of agricultural studies in primary and secondary schools, and to take advantage of the professional training and masters and doctoral programmes offered by international educational organisations.