IAN FERGUSON: The advantages to buying Bahamian


Ian Ferguson

The Bahamas presently imports more than $5.5bn in goods and services annually. Over 94 percent of our food is imported from the US and our other trading partners. For many years we have lamented these statistics, but have not made significant strides towards changing this reality. The cry of ‘buy local’ has been made for years, but who is listening? What does it even mean to buy authentically Bahamian products? How do we even know they are authentically Bahamian? What makes it authentically Bahamian? When we purchase beds, bottles, shoes and other manufactured and semi-manufactured items at home, can we call these items Bahamian when the raw products were imported?

Generations ago, the only option people really had for shopping was to buy local. Our great grandparents ate vegetables grown in their gardens and bought clothing, tools and other goods that were hand-made in their home town. Today’s globalised market fulfills our every whim by delivering goods that are either unavailable in our own communities or are cheaper to buy elsewhere. Sisal rope has been replaced by synthetic; natural sponge has been replaced by coloured artificial ones; and bush medicine has been replaced by pharmacy-bought varieties.

This luxury of being able to get anything, and anywhere, is a testament to human ingenuity, but it also has environmental and social consequences. In today’s economically turbulent and environmentally unfriendly times, many consumers choose to shop only within their own town or state. Community resilience and environmental integrity are at the heart of the ‘buy local’ movement. It also offers businesses a special opportunity to support their counterparts within their own community. Certainly there are many advantages to buying local. However, the concept is not without its potential disadvantages.

Often touted as the best way to be environmentally friendly and support your community, buying local means just that – purchasing items grown or manufactured in your home country. By purchasing food and other goods that are produced locally, you stimulate the economy in which you live. Jobs are created or retained, the community gains revenue, families and cultures are supported, and businesses thrive and grow.

Purchasing locally also means that you know a bit more about quality control. You know that certain goods have been produced in a way that meets stringent regional and national standards. When purchasing goods from out of the country, it can be difficult to know the manufacturing processes used and the potentially harmful chemicals and by-products involved.

Further, sourcing locally reduces the transportation costs associated with your goods. It takes less gas, and thus puts fewer greenhouse emissions into the air, to ship a load of onions from Exuma than from across the globe. Local items are also more likely to be fresh compared to items that are transported over long distances.

Buying locally also presents a special networking opportunity among businesses. Choosing to buy from other businesses within your community can lead to new connections, special discounts and the chance to collaborate and support one another’s brands.

• NB: Ian R Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities. He has served organsations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues. He may be contacted at tcconsultants@coralwave.com.


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