By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Small Bahamian producers and livestock developers must have secure access to regional and international markets, the Minister of Agriculture said yesterday, adding that “connecting buyers to sellers” was central to the the Bahamas’ Agriculture Policy Programme (APP).
V Alfred Gray, speaking with Tribune Business at its launch, said the programme would be divided into three components.
“One of the components is to ensure that whatever the producers are involved in is done on a technological research basis, and that will be done together with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), which is leading leading the charge of connecting growers to buyers,” Mr Gray said.
“Those who grow must always have a place to sell what they grow, and IICA is finding a way of connecting the two so that whatever they grow they are able to sell and, of course, help them the art of packaging what they grow to make it aesthetically attractive.
“When you walk into a food store or somewhere else and you see a product ,and it is so attractively packaged, it gives you no way out but to stop and pick it up,” the Minister added.
“I’m hoping that, at the end of the day, the small producers, livestock developers and those who are in any way involved in agriculture will be in a better position to ensure that the business side of their development is enhanced; the research and technology division is enhanced; and, indeed, the bringing together of buyers and sellers is done in such a way that producers feel comfortable that whatever they produce at the end of the day they can sell.”
The Ministry of Agriculture, Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC) and the Bahamas Agricultural and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) are all expected to play pivotal roles in the APP project, which will be implemented over a 45-month period.
The programme is divided into three components, which include policy and strategy, applied research and enterprise development. It will be funded by the 10th European Development Fund, and aided by the European Commission (EC), the CARICOM Secretariat, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI).
Mr Gray said connecting producers to buyers has been a challenge in the past, but BAMSI should change this.
“I think that a lot of people in the buying market see BAMSI as a breath of fresh air, because it does create a sustainable position for agriculture,” Mr Gray said.
“You no longer have to go from pillar to post to find out who is doing what. If you get into contact with BAMSI, you can find out what is going on in agriculture.
“We are on a roll and I’m excited about what I see happening in the agricultural sector. We want to reduce dependence on imported foods. We want to be in the position in the next four to five years to reduce our important bill by at least 50 per cent.”