A delegation of Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC) officials met with local farmers at the Office of the Prime Minister on Aug. 26.
Heading the delegation was Arnold Forbes, BAIC chairman. Forbes was accompanied by Arnold Dorsett, BAIC’s Assistant General Manager (AGM) for Agriculture; Steve Burrows, AGM for Facilities; Judith Thompson, AGM for Properties/Land Acquisition; John Burrows, Marketing Manager; and Jason Sands, Agriculture; and Patrice Cox, manager of BAIC’s Marsh Harbour Office.
According to Dorsett, the purpose of their visit was to interface with farmers in understanding the new role of BAIC and to discuss what they can to do to assist them. BAIC is now responsible for packing houses, Abattoir (slaughterhouse), the Fish and Farm Store, Feed Mill and Produce Exchange from the Ministry of Agriculture in July.
The farmers were also given updates on the properties within the BAIC area as well as new leases to be issued and the regulation of land in Norman’s Castle and Spring City.
“We are meeting with farmers today to highlight some of the challenges that they’ve been facing and how we can help them,” he confirmed. “So the idea is just to ensure that farmers understand that farming is a business, and they must make sure they have business licenses and certificates.
“When they go to the Farm Store in Nassau we’re asking that they have these things, so they can benefit from the new input supplies available in the Farm Store, and they can benefit by delivering to the packing houses or the Produce Exchange at good prices.”
This season, Dorsett said they are expecting an increased production inclusive of Abaco, and are trusting that farmers will be able to benefit from this billion dollar of imports that are coming into the country under the Import Substitution Program. The program allows farmers to produce some of the commodities, which can be then be introduced and therefore eliminate some of the imports.
He was pleased by the number of farmers present who were represented by the North Abaco Farmers Association (NAFA) headed by Johnny Knowles, and South Abaco Farmers Association (SAFA) and its president George Martin Sr. along with independent farmers.
Dorsett said there are about 1,800 registered farmers in The Bahamas, which is not a large farm base when you consider the amount of people who were farming in the early 1970s as well as the number of older farmers who have passed on.
“We want to encourage newer farmers and this is one of the efforts to introduce them to the new lands in Spring City and Norma’s Castle. The lands will be five acres, 10 acres or 20 acres depending on their capacity to bring those lands into production, and hopefully we can see them being guided by extension officers as well as others in the area of providing expertise, so they can really improve their production and hopefully improve their overall income in farming,” Dorsett added.
He also highlighted the Bahamas Agricultural and Marine Science Research Institute (BAMSI), which will begin its new 50 student cohorts on Sept. 22.
“The institute is well on the way. We just happened to be there yesterday, and we saw the active development site with a lot of activity going on,” Dorsett said. “Some 15 acres of banana has already been planted, some 11 or 12 acres of papaya is in the ground and have already begun to flower, so we expect that they will see a lot of activities happening in and around November/December coming out of Andros.
“So be ready, buy fresh, buy Bahamian – we want to keep some of the billion dollars in The Bahamas.”
A meeting was also held in North Abaco that evening to discuss BAIC’s objectives with farmers there.