During his meeting with fishermen and farmers on July 26 at the Anglican Parish Hall, the Honourable Alfred Gray, Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Local Government, told Abaconians that he has a very special expectation for them as he shared the government’s plans for Abaco. He said he hopes that together solutions can be found.
He began by addressing farmers first as he recalled what took place after September 11, 2001.
“No boats were coming or going for six weeks,” he exclaimed. “If America closes its borders, we have no food supply. The farmers are the persons on whom the country depends.”
Min. Gray emphasized that The Bahamas only produces ten percent of what we eat, and that as a result we have accumulated a “food bill of one billion dollars a year.” As he shared ideas with Abaco farmers, he encouraged them to produce sustainable quantities of their products at a reasonable price because there is a law to protect farmers that do.
Calling on farmers to produce what The Bahamas needs, he listed a number of incentives that will assist them like the leasing of land to them, providing fencing and irrigation at half the cost, and pushing farm roads. Min. Gray said that all the government is asking is that farmers pay a $100 for their license at the Dept. of Agriculture.
“This is the best opportunity right now,” he assured. “We will also give you heavy duty equipment and trucks duty free, and a guaranteed loan with the Bahamas Development Bank if you have a good business plan.”
Additionally, an Agricultural School is planned for Andros, and a Fish and Farm Store is available on Potters Cay Dock in Nassau.
As for fishermen, Min. Gray told them that there is no shortage of fish here. There are also duty-free incentives in place for fishermen, and those with an interest in fishing and the use of compressors can become certified divers.
Once again, Min. Gray told the audience that he would encourage them in whatever they are doing. Those in attendance were interested to hear that the BAIC Farmers Market site would soon be available for their use.
During the question and answer session, Min. Gray heard concerns regarding farmers insurance to protect against losses; the need for mechanized production, infrastructure and education to be in place as well as extension services; and grant assistance for farmers associations.
Min. Gray assured them that there would be no change in plans in what was promised to them. Min. Alfred Gray was accompanied by Rena Glinton, Undersecretary; Michael Braynen, director of Marine Resources; and Simeon Pinder, director of Agriculture.