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Agriculture group targets $25m for 20% of chicken, egg market

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

BAHAMIAN agricultural entrepreneurs have unveiled ambitions to raise $25m in financing that will enable them to “tap into 20 percent” of this nation’s chicken and egg import market.

Caron Shepherd, president of the Bahamas Agri Entrepreneurs Cooperative, told Tribune Business in a recent interview that talks with potential investors were “pretty much almost at the commitment stage” in a bid to raise funding for the expansion of chicken grow and layer houses.

“We’re working to revolutionise the poultry industry,” she disclosed. “We need to get that industry up and running, and get it to the point of almost being self-sufficient in chicken and eggs. The Government is doing its Golden Yolk programme. They are covering 2-3 percent of the market, but we are looking to tap into 20 percent of the market this year.

“We want to expand our farmers into large poultry producers and produce more of what they’re doing now. We’ve spoken to a number of investors who have expressed an interest in partnering with us to have us produce more and be able to at least tap into 20 percent of chicken and eggs. We’re looking to expand the chicken houses and egg production.”

Ms Shepherd said the Cooperative has 250 farmers and members, not all of whom are chicken and egg producers, but “a considerable” number are. “We want to increase their production, and have spoken to outside sources interested in working with us and who have indicated they would be happy to partner with us,” she added.

“Money wise we’re looking at about $25m. We have not yet raised it, but have had talks and are pretty much almost at the commitment stage. We’re going to have the grow houses for the chicken and layers to be able to lay the eggs. This is going to be an essential and priority area for 2024.

“I’m really confident we would be able to accomplish that given the talks we’ve had and the participants we’ve spoken to,” Ms Shepherd added. “There are a number of logistics that we have to put in place before we are able to finalise the agreement; the paperwork that needs to

be resolved and to have the right partnership.

“It’s going to have a serious impact. This is going to tap that 20 percent of the import market and, once we’re able to tap into that, that will put a dent into what is coming in at the moment and allow us to supply the local market with fresh chicken and eggs.

“We will easily increase the amount we produce locally but we need to get over this first hump and get started. We are confident that will happen this year. The benefits would be that we would get freshly grown local chicken. We’re producing it now, but not producing it on a large scale where we can make an impact. This will give us a greater impact in chicken and egg production.”

Ms Shepherd did not identify the potential investors that the Bahamas Agri Entrepreneurs Cooperative is talking to, but voiced optimism that its farmers and members will be able to increase production to such an extent that they can eventually “make the case” to the Government for a moratorium on chicken and egg imports.

She added that the group’s investment, besides increasing revenues and profits for the participating farmers, would also boost The Bahamas’ food security drive by producing more of what this nation eats domestically. This, in turn, would reduce the drain of foreign exchange earnings to pay for the country’s estimated $1bn annual food import bill and improve the health and quality of what Bahamians consume.

“There’s a need. There’s definite need... the mere fact we are importing millions and millions of chicken,” Ms Shepherd said. “Our focus right now, the number one focus for us, is to increase the production of chickens to reduce our imports.

“I’m sure we will be able to convince the Government once we get started

to put a moratorium on the importation of chicken at a certain stage. We can say we are producing x, y and z, and they will put a moratorium on certain amounts of imports. We will have a stronger case.”

Ms Shepherd agreed that the Cooperative’s plans would complement the Government’s Golden Yolk drive, but added that its initiative is being taken from “the farmer’s perspective”. The Davis administration last year pledged to invest $15m in its Golden Yolk plan, which it said will make The Bahamas 100 percent self-sufficient in egg production and cut the annual food import bill by $12.5m.

And, once the chicken and egg production is underway, Ms Shepherd revealed that the

Cooperative also plans to “go into other sectors with vegetables” during the later part of 2024. “We haven’t finalised what type of vegetables we will be doing during the second half of the year, but it will be the ones used on a community and every day basis,” she said.

“So it will be more of the greens, the leafy greens, and then we have some other vegetables that are becoming more popular that we will bring to the market. That will entail us putting in the necessary grow houses to grow greens on a regular basis. We’re trying to be more efficient, effective and consistent. Once we do that, we will have made the statement that we can produce what we need to produce.”

Comments

ThisIsOurs 2 months ago

This is a good initiative. Local food production is a need especially when crisis hits, but they have to outlast the good times too. I wonder if they will be able to bring prices to match that of imports. It's all well and good to have local production but if people cant afford the prices... people eat corn beef spam hotdogs and ramen noodles for a reason.

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TalRussell 2 months ago

@ComradeThisIsOurs, another potential local food production initiative --- Commercialise Rat Farming, like it is done with chickens. --- To serve as an exotic delicacy, --- 'Bahamian Roasted Rat-on-a-Stick'. ---Yes?

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ThisIsOurs 2 months ago

Lol. I hadnt thought of this! But as there's an overwhelming and neverending supply and feed cost is zero, price should not be an issue

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ohdrap4 2 months ago

And so it was with lobsters 150 years ago.

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hrysippus 2 months ago

Do not count your chickens until you have that 25 million dollars in the bank would be my advise. But what do i know? I thought Tromp lost that last uSeless election......

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crawfish 2 months ago

Ms. Caron Shepherd, hopefully you will see this post and respond.

How do we contact you directly, either by email or telephone?

We currently produce 35 cases of eggs monthly from ISA Brown hens, and would be interested in learning more about your proposal.

Thank you.

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TalRussell 2 months ago

Comrades, offering Bahamian Pig Feets Souse on the Dinner Menu is met with revulsion in most parts of the world. --- Forget, if can raise $25 million on a Hope and a Prayer of capturing 20% of the Chicken and Egg market. ... When there is actually a real business, selling ... 'Bahamian Roasted Rat-on-a-Stick' & RatBurgers'** - Both can be real tourist money-makers. --- Thinking out the box --- Can take as lttle as a bare knuckles $$ investment to set up. ... Comrade, you're only a few lengths of inexpensive woods away from becoming a Beach Vendor Owner of Barbecue Huts at Baha Mar Beach and Junkanoo Beach. --- Hope I've awakened the Comrade Entrepreneur within. --- Wishing You, Barbecuing $uccess! ---Yes!

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