By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
ACKLINS MP and Minister of Agriculture V Alfred Gray yesterday defended the government’s decision to ship cascarilla plants from Acklins to Andros for research at the Agriculture and Marine Institute.
His defence of the move followed reports that Acklins residents are concerned that the plants’ removal will adversely affect their island’s economy. The bark of the cascarilla is stripped and shipped to Italy as the flavouring in Campari.
Despite Mr Gray’s claims, however, the source and nature of the concerns of Acklins residents remains unclear.
“The Prime Minister made a request of me to see if we could get a few plants of the cascarilla bark so that research could be conducted at the Agricultural School in Andros,” Mr Gray said. “As a result of that I made a request to one of the constituents in Acklins to access the plants from his yard and he did that. He sent me some plants by mailboat and those plants would have been shipped to Andros to be replanted at the school on a research basis to see whether these plants would grow in the soil conditions in Andros which differs greatly from the soil conditions in Acklins.”
“Of course, I am told there are some people who were concerned about that because they felt the bark belonged to Acklins. Well, obviously, a little education will tell Acklins people, and I intend to do that on Thursday, that all of the Bahamas belongs to all Bahamians. The fact that the government wants to use a few bark plants as research for the school in Andros ought never to be personal.
“It’s one Bahamas and the research certainly in my view, if it is successful, would be a way to create a greater yield of the same bark for the people in Acklins because we would be able to show them how to do it and harvest it in a more profitable way so it’s really to their advantage that the government is seeking a greater yield on the cascarilla bark. I could understand if they were upset with the bark being sent to Andros people. We would never do something like that. But what is wrong with the bark being sent to the school in Andros to do research?”
Despite Mr Gray’s comments, The Tribune understands that Acklins residents might be less concerned about sharing the island’s cascarilla plants with others than they are with ensuring that the existing plants are not destroyed.
Mr Gray admitted that some of the plants taken to Andros died because “they were rooted up wrongly.”
He said: “390 plants came and more than half of them died because they were rooted up wrongly and by that I mean because those people who rooted them up broke the main root. Once you break the main root, the plants will die and they were plants two feet, three feet and I’m hoping we could get the rest of the plants.”
One Acklins resident, 86-year-old Eliza Taylor, said residents are not pleased that some of the plants have been destroyed.
“We don’t want to have that,” she said. “When you pull it all from here, what gon’ be left for those of us that behind? That’s the biggest way of us living on this island. When we get the bark we could always sell it and make a few dollars. Ain’ nothing wrong with planting the plants elsewhere but they rooted them up and destroyed the ones that we have. I couldn’t believe it when I heard what they did,” she said.