By Riel Major
Tribune Staff Reporter
AGRICULTURE and Marine Resources Minister Michael Pintard defended the 2019/2020 budget increase for the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) noting the institution's purpose is to conduct research.
BAMSI was allocated $7m in the 2017/2018 budget. In the 2019/2020 budget, the institution received an increase of $1m, totalling $8m.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference on Wednesday at the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Science, Mr Pintard said BAMSI is an institution designed to conduct a variety of studies in agriculture, marine and life sciences.
"The information gleaned from those studies are supposed to go through extension officers to farmers to give them the best possible advice on what varieties to use and how to supplement their soil," he said.
"Good agriculture practices or good marine resources practices, etc, that's the purpose of BAMSI to build as many memorandums of understanding with other educational institutions around the world to conduct studies on tropical crops and a variety species so that we can more empower fishers and farmers. That's the focus of BAMSI."
When asked why BAMSI received an increase if the school wasn't profitable to the government, the minister said: “I’m surprised to hear the discussion about BAMSI’s profitability because that’s really not the objective of BAMSI.
Mr Pintard said: "We ought to dramatically increase the amount of funds we put into research and development [and] in this case that means there is a need for us to produce value added products. Converting agriculture produce into jams, jellies and tomato paste...a wide range of the things we go to the foodstore to purchase.
"BAMSI should be concentrating on that. It should not be in the business of large-scale agriculture production. The only case it ought to be in that business is, one, so that you can have studied plots of land so that those students that are there are able to learn in real time good agriculture practices.
He added: "An increase of $1m quite frankly is minuscule in comparison to the kind of money that needs to be pumped into research. The Bahamas has one of the lowest subsidy packages in the entire western hemisphere in terms of benefits we give to our farmers.
"We have to do a lot more and I think as an administration if two and a half years from now we have not increased the subsidy package to benefit farmers...Certainly if I'm in this chair I would [have] failed in the work that I'm doing."