By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE government over the next fiscal year will be "extremely aggressive" in seeking to help fisherman and farmers access funding opportunities, Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Michael Pintard said yesterday describing the effort as a "major plank in our thrust going forward".
In an interview with Tribune Business Mr Pintard noted agriculture and marine resources are key areas where there is economic leakage.
"The government is committed to growing the economy and reducing the amount of funds that go out of the country in order to purchase those items we consume on a regular basis," he said.
"Agriculture and marine resources is one of the primary areas where there is economic leakage. We are importing 80 percent of what we consume. In terms of the food bill that is approximately $1.4bn annually. Our commitment is to dramatically reduce the amount we are spending for what is a necessity not just for the local population but the more than $5m tourists that visit."
He also noted there are other Bahamian made products which are 'prime items' for import substitution.
"There are non-food agriculture and marine resources products in excess of $1 billion in value, including handcraft, souvenirs, mattresses, candles etc which are prime items for import substitution. A part of our mandate is to fix these age old problems that have spanned multiple administrations," said Pintard.
"In this regard there are several things we are committed to doing. We know there are a number of agriculture and marine products which science tells us are viable when converted to business enterprise. The major constraint is financing. One of the major things we are doing over the next fiscal year is to match fishermen and agriculturalists with funding possibilities. Through the department of Agriculture and Marine Resources, BAIC and BAMSI we are going to be extremely aggressive in helping those entrepreneurs to properly prepare their business proposals and match them with funding possibilities."
Mr Pintard explained this could be made possible via the Venture Capital Fund, the Bahamas Development Bank, the Small and Medium Sized Business Enterprise as well as connecting entrepreneurs with venture capitalists.
"That is one major plank in our thrust going forward, matching potentially viable start-ups and medium sized businesses with funding opportunities," he said.