By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Bahamas Agricultural and Marine Sciences Institute (BAMSI) president has dismissed as “nonsense” the notion that Bahamian farmers cannot compete with foreign imports, adding that those who follow good agricultural practices could earn up to $50,000 annually or more.
Godfrey Eneas, addressing a press conference to announce the fourth annual Andros Business Outlook conference, said that virtually all farmers under BAMSI’s associate programme have earned more than $30,000 in the first six months of this year.
“BAMSI will no doubt be the catalyst for economic growth and development in North Andros. I say that because the Institute having agriculture as one of its main components will be the engine that drives the North Andrso economy,” Mr Eneas said.
“I can safely say that in the not too distant future agriculture will be the main industry in North Andros. It is being demonstrated now through our various programmes, one of which is the associate farmers programme.
“We have identified a number of farmers in North Andros who grow their crops to the standards of the Institute. Virtually all of these farmers have to-date, for the first six months of the year, earned more than $30,000.”
Mr Eneas added: “We are quite confident that agriculture is a sector that can generally enable a farmer who follows good agricultural practices to earn a very decent living, up to $50,000 and above.”
He said that in the past year more than 100 acres of onions has been cultivated; the largest production of onions for one island. Mr Eneas added that BAMSI has put those $1.7 million worth of onions on the market.
“Next year we will expand our output to probably 300 acres,” said Mr Eneas. “This idea of making the Bahamas self-sufficient is achievable. We have already demonstrated through our commercial tutorial farm that we can put on the Bahamian market products cheaper than the landed price.
“Apart from onions we have demonstrated that with papaya, where we are producing papaya at $0.40 per pound, and are selling them at $0.80. We are making $0.40 profit, and the landed price is $1.21. We are doing the same with bananas.
“This whole notion that Bahamian agriculture is not competitive is nonsense, and it is from that perspective that we know that Andros is going to be the bread basket of the Bahamas.”
Mr Eneas said the development of the Bahamian agricultural sector could open the door for employment in associated areas such as processing.
“There is going to be an increased demand for processing facilities in North Andros so we can ship a finished product. For too long the Bahamas has been all about fresh produce. There aren’t really any commercial processing facilities,” he added.
On the educational side, Mr Eneas said BAMSI was looking to take on another 40-50 students, and has signed on to several Memoranda of Understanding for faculty and student exchanges.