By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
An Abaco farmer has slammed multiple administrations for “unkept promises” when it comes to providing a Crown Land grant for property they have spent more than 29 years developing.
Daphne de Gregory-Miaoulis, Abaco Neem’s chief operating officer, told Tribune Business she was “tired of the lip service” over whether the Government will provide security for the company’s investment despite being told repeatedly a grant would be forthcoming.
She said: “We applied for the land under the first term of the Ingraham administration, then under Mr Christie, then under Dr Minnis. Prime Minister Minnis promised it would be granted to us and Abaco Big Bird as well, and it never happened; he never delivered on his promise. This is the fourth administration and we are hopeful that, finally, it will be granted.
“Abaco Neem is a well-established company and our products are sold throughout the country and internationally through our website. We are one of a few companies that grows our crop, harvests and produces certified organic health products and that exports around the world.”
Calling successive governments out on their empty promises, Ms de Gregory-Miaoulis added: “There is a lot of talk about the need for food security and opportunities for farmers, but without ownership of the land there is little incentive for young people to devote their lives and resources to land that they won’t eventually own.
“And, after 29 years, we have reached an age where we need to have a succession plan to ensure the continuation of our farm and business.” Without security of tenure, Abaco Neem and other farms are unable to use their land as collateral to obtain debt financing and further grow their business.
This has been especially problematic for Abaco-based farms that have been trying to rebuild ever since Hurricane Dorian struck the island in September 2019. Ms de Gregory-Miaoulis said: “Our main concern is being able to develop agro-tourism, eco-tourism and a holistic retreat supported by one of the most valuable medical trees, the Neem Tree. We have developed 120 acres.
“The opportunities are endless but without land tenure how can we achieve our goals? We have identified potential investors to help make this a one-of-its-kind health retreat for our country but not owning the land makes it impossible. We have been totally frustrated by administration after administration and unkept promises.”
She added: “If we weren’t proud Bahamians we would have left the country and taken advantage of several opportunities offered from Panama to Paraguay, where we participate in a plantation where, to-date, we have planted over 200,000 of our neem seeds.
“The opportunities are endless but it is time for our governments to stop just talking about the importance of agriculture and start supporting in a real tangible way. We have dedicated over 29 hard years, and weathered many storms and challenges. We have picked ourselves up each time, we have invested every penny that we have earned on this land, so I ask you: Are we not deserving of owning this land?”