CLAY Sweeting, Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs, urged Bahamians to place an emphasis on growing food to reduce the country’s costly food bill during his remarks for World Food Day 2021.
World Food Day, which was celebrated on Saturday, is collectively commemorated by more than 150 countries. This year’s theme is “Our Actions are our future. Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and better life.”
Mr Sweeting noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted the “fragility and inequalities” of the local food system and has “underscored the urgency to make them more sustainable, inclusive and resilient.”
“When we speak of food systems, we are referring to the sum of activities involved in producing, processing, transporting, consuming and disposing of food. These activities are cross-cutting and integrated throughout our ministries, industries and private sectors. Each of you participate in the food system every time you eat,” he said.
“As a major food importing country, we are at a higher risk for food shortages and increased food prices.”
The Bahamas’ food importation bill is pegged at $1 billion per annum.
In 2012, food and agriculture contributed 1.2 percent of GDP. However, by 2018 this dwindled to 0.7 percent, according to officials.
Mr Sweeting said The Bahamas currently produces eight percent of its domestic market needs and this is projected to be halved in the next five years.
“This is very alarming and our current food system is unsustainable. There is the increasing recognition that the sustainable transformation of our food system must also be central in our efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 thereby accelerating the collective action for achieving a diversified economy through food and agriculture,” he said.
He added that Bahamians can take action by engaging in sustainable practices such as using biopesticides, solar energy at processing plants, eating more local produce and reducing the carbon footprint.
“We must take care of our natural resources. Reduce, reuse, recycle are very basic principles that can help preserve our natural resources for a better environment and a better life. Do not be so quick to discard kitchen scraps, but rather use it for your compost or use more glassware than plastics,” Mr Sweeting said.
Other actions, the minister suggested are supporting local farmers; choosing healthier meals to incorporate whole foods; supporting local restaurants serving Bahamian cuisine; recycling and reuse for a better environment and involving children in outdoor nature activities.
He concluded by encouraging Bahamians to become more involved in agriculture and marine enterprises.
“It is my hope that you will be inspired to also become involved in the many facets of the industries whether as an agri/ marine business entrepreneur or a technician to assist in charting the way forward to achieving a diversified economy through food and agriculture in The Bahamas,” Mr Sweeting said.