• Says 100% egg self-sufficient target ‘realistic’
• $15m project must keep politics, ‘buddies’ out
• Golden Yolk pledges 90 jobs, $2.3m impact
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A Bahamian poultry farmer last night voiced optimism that the Government is finally serious about ending three decades of “blowing smoke” on food security as it formally unveiled its $15m egg self-sufficiency ambitions.
Lance Pinder, Abaco Big Bird’s operations manager, told Tribune Business that the Davis administration’s goal of producing 100 percent of the country’s egg supply locally through the ‘Golden Yolk’ project appeared “realistic” provided politics was eliminated from its management.
Acknowledging that successive administrations “don’t have a good track record” in owning/operating commercial enterprises, he added that it was vital the right farmers be given total freedom and independence to manage the grow houses and all business-related aspects as they see fit.
As a broiler meat producer, Mr Pinder said the plans disclosed yesterday at a ceremony headed by the Prime Minister would not impact his Abaco-based operation directly. “I have mixed feelings about it,” he told this newspaper. “The Government has never been very successful at doing big initiatives like this, but you have to hope they can pull it off.
“I think as long as the process doesn’t get politicised, and it’s not ‘my buddy and your buddy’, it could be a very good thing. It depends on how they’re going to manage that. Previous administrations in the country don’t have a good track record. But I don’t want to knock it, as they say, and they’ve got to keep trying.”
Clay Sweeting, minister of agriculture, marine resources and Family Island Affairs, revealed to Tribune Business on Monday that the ‘Golden Yolk’ initiative is aiming to take domestic Bahamian egg production from 700,000 per year to 28m when complete and fully operational.
Suggesting that it would slash The Bahamas’ estimated $1bn food imports by around 1 percent, he explained that it will involve the provision of “climate smart grow houses” in both New Providence and the Family Islands to help create a sustainable domestic agriculture niche.
And, while the Government is seeking to provide the “enabling” environment, Mr Sweeting emphasised that it was not seeking to take over domestic egg production itself. Rather, he added that management and operational responsibility for the units will be “contracted out” to private farmers, who will also oversee egg sales to food distributors, wholesalers and retailers themselves.
Philip Davis KC, speaking at yesterday’s launch, forecast that the initiative will inject some $2.3m into the domestic Bahamian economy in terms of its impact while creating some 90 jobs. He added that it was also designed to slash The Bahamas’ annual food import bill by $12.5m through the roll-out of 38 poultry houses across 12 Family Islands, with a further eight earmarked for New Providence, in a bid to raise domestic egg production 30-fold.
Mr Pinder, meanwhile, told Tribune Business the ambition of meeting 100 percent of The Bahamas’ egg needs via the project’s local production was “pretty realistic” if managed correctly. “That’s way easier than chicken meat production; much, much easier to accomplish,” he said. “In meat production, you obviously grow the chickens and you have legs, wings, breasts and all this product you have to sell.
“It depends on the demand for different products in your area. With eggs, all you have is the eggs. It’s a much simpler process than chicken meat production. You’re not competing with chicken leg quarters coming from another place. Egg production is much easier. It’s a much lower hanging fruit than chicken meat production for a whole lot of reasons.”
Mr Pinder said eggs did not necessarily have to be refrigerated, and could be stored “in place” before being washed, depending on the frequency and volume of customer orders. “I don’t see why we couldn’t, especially if world egg prices stay where they are now,” he said of the egg self-sustainability goal. “I don’t think they will have any problem meeting that goal.
“Obviously you have to have some reliable people coming in to run the facilities, but I don’t see it as an unreasonable target.” Mr Pinder, though, questioned how price controls will “play into” the Golden Yolk initiative as these were “some of the problems” that had stifled local egg production in the past. Wholesalers and importers had sourced foreign eggs, preferring them to local rivals, because the higher costs meant they could get better prices/margins on overseas produce.
“I don’t know what the Government’s plans are,” Mr Pinder said. “At that point in time, price controls were part of the problem and that’s something they’ve got to look at. I’ve never been in the egg business here, but I did a pilot project in the past year with a friend of mine because I saw an opportunity there and helped them get into the business.
“It’s a completely different ball game and not something I could add to my plate, but they’re going at it full force. That’s free range eggs. The larger market is a bit more in-depth, and I guess that’s what the Government is going after.”
Mr Pinder said he hoped the Government’s attitude towards farming and domestic food production was now finally changing, and it was being treated with the seriousness it deserved post-COVID, after successive administrations had paid lip service to growing the industry without delivering on their promises and lofty objectives.
“They’ve been blowing a lot of smoke over the years about agriculture, 20-30 years, but this time I think they are really trying,” he told Tribune Business. “I’m not picking on any particular administration, but I think they’re really serious about it this time. It seems that way from what we’re seeing.”
Mr Davis yesterday said The Bahamas imports too much food, some 90 percent of all it consumes, and despite past administrations lamenting the issue this percentage has not decreased.
“My friends, that all changes now. Today, I declare that figure destined to fall faster than the walls of Jericho,” he said at the Golden Yolk project’s groundbreaking at the Gladstone Road Agricultural Centre.
“We are ushering in a new age of agriculture. An age of promise and prosperity, an age where we make the most of what we have in the most sustainable manner possible. This is especially important for low and middle income families, who are disproportionately affected by ballooning inflation on imported foodstuffs.”
The Prime Minister said his administration has made headway in the race for greater food security, and is allocating $500,000 in grants to farmers and an additional $1m in funding to secure broilers and to support livestock farming.
“The Golden Yolk project builds on this commitment to ramping up local food production. Indeed, it goes hand in hand with our pledge to ensure every Bahamian has sufficient access to affordable and nutritious food,” the Prime Minister said.
truetruebahamian 3 months ago
I am glad that those days are over. Years back in Eleuthera if you had produce to take to the packing house in North Eleuthera, if you weren't PLP your produce would not be shipped and processed, just left on the side and allowed to rot. Hopefully those days of discrimination are over.
Bonefishpete 3 months ago
Hatchet Bay comes to mind. I've seen it.
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