By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) has begun to make “tangible” gains in terms of production, the Deputy Prime Minister said yesterday, adding that the sector was now on target to become the economy’s third pillar.
Addressing the fourth annual Andros Business Outlook, Philip Davis said BAMSI’s Associated Farmers’ programme has demonstrated that locally-produced food can be competitive.
He added that the stage was now set for the expansion of commercial food production in the Bahamas.
Mr Davis said BAMSI’s produce output over the past three months for onions, tomatoes, sweet peppers and cabbages was equivalent to a collective $695,000 in import value, with the programme generating $198,000 in gross returns for four farmers directly attached to the programme.
“The influence of BAMSI on the productive capacity of the farmers in North Andros is manifested in the volume of onions harvested in the second quarter of the year, in the amount of two million pounds from a cultivated area of 100 acres,” Mr Davis said.
“This is the highest amount of onions ever harvested in any one season in the Bahamas. This represents an average income per associated farmer of $24,210 so far this year.
“This programme has the potential to allow for each farmer to realise gross returns of over $100,000 per year. Under the packing house system these farmers would not have been able sell more than $9,000 per year.”
Mr Davis added: “The commercial marketing linkages with food stores and food distribution outlets in Nassau have also been encouraging. Perhaps the brightest and best example has been the relationship between BAMSI and Super Value stores.
“Super Value is dedicated to appoint BAMSI as its preferred supplier and supplier of first call for first-class and high quality agricultural produce, bearing the ‘BAMSI Quality Mark, through its plethora of food stores to its varying categories of clients.
“And to operate as such and, in so doing, [Super Value] has expressed an RWA (Ready, Willing and Able) to establish a buyer/supplier relationship with BAMSI with mutual respect, and with inherent rights and privileges to be determined.”
Mr Davis said Super Value has begun to receive 27,600 pounds of onions and 1,500 pounds of papaya per week from BAMSI.
“We are now seeing the end of the tunnel. Farming and agriculture is now on the trajectory to becoming the third pillar of economic growth and development in the Bahamas,” said Mr Davis.
He added that as a result of the BAMSI development more 70 jobs have been created directly on the farm and at the Institute, ranging in expertise levels from labourers to individuals with doctorate degrees.
“This does not include the administrative staff in New Providence. It is noted that a sustained effort is being made to prioritise the hiring of native Androsians wherever possible,” Mr Davis said.
“Foreign expertise is hired but contracted within the short-term, and with Bahamian succession planning, as an essential component.Economic spin-offs in housing and transportation, along with other boarding needs, spread throughout the north Andros settlements to the benefit of native Androsians. Properties which once languished unrented before have been refurbished and now produce positive cash flow for north Andros families.”