By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Government is reviewing the $9,000 cap on produce sold by individual farmers via packing houses, a senior Bahamas Agriculture and Industrial Corporation (BAIC) executive said yesterday, emphasising the need for an increase in local production.
Arnold Dorsett, assistant general manager of BAIC’s agriculture division, who is slated to speak at the 3rd annual Andros Business Outlook next week, said: “Recently, the management of the produce exchange and the marketing system has fallen under BAIC.
“This is going to cause some significant changes in some of the things that may be going on now. For example, the cap that limits how much farmers can send to the packing house, that will be reviewed.
“If we can market all that comes in we should not have a limit on what the farmers bring in. We need to increase production. If we were to review that and remove that, and a farmer could bring in $18,000 worth of produce, and we could sell all of it, it’s better for him. That’s under review and we will see some changes in that.”
Under the first Ingraham administration, a $9,000 cap on produce sold by individual farmers to the packing houses was put in place to curb spoilage.
Mr Dorsett ,who will speak on BAIC’s role in the development of Andros at the conference, said there were an estimated 1,500-1,700 active farmers throughout the Bahamas, with a considerable amount of activity in North Andros.
“The commodity and diversity of crops coming out of Andros is significant because of the large scale mechanised farming,” said Mr Dorsett.
He added that there were some 18 crops that could be used to expand local production and cut into the country’s $1 billion food import bill.
“We have 18 crops that can be used to expand local production and directly eliminate some of the imports,” Mr Dorsett said.
“We have about five species of livestock. We can directly impact the imports of almost $50 million worth of meat.”
Mr Dorsett added that in addition to the efforts of the Bahamas Agriculture & Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) on Andros, BAIC would engage farmers and encourage them to increase their output so there would be an incremental growth in food import substitution in the first three years of BAMSI, worth between $210-$250 million.