Michael Pintard, Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources, speaking at the fifteenth annual Abaco Business Outlook conference, suggested expanding the relationship between tourism and agriculture as an economic driver for the island and a model for the country.
He suggested, noting that Abaco is a leader in several categories in Agriculture, that the island can be a “model” of how to reduce economic leakages. He noted that Abaco have “the largest Pig and Poultry Farms in the country, and hydroponics are producing high end products locally.”
“In many ways we cannot compete on volume, and our unit prices will often be a little higher; in some cases, much higher than items coming in. We can, however, compete on the value proposition that what we are serving is healthy and fresh, from farm to fork. Abaco has been leading the way in that regard, and Abaco Big Bird is one example,” said Mr. Pintard.
“I am advised that in the poultry sector, less than 15 per cent of the market is supplied by Bahamian poultry producers. With eggs it’s even worse. The growth potential is huge in that sector.”
Mr. Pintard said tourism on Abaco has the potential to expand into a niche market, using the various farms on the island to display the healthy ways a wide range of products are being produced.
“We are making a number of things happen in the area of agriculture. The relationship between tourism and agriculture can be expanded in Abaco, and Abaco can become our model of how we can reduce economic leakage by increasingly satisfying market demand by ramping up our production,” he said.
Pointing to the island’s tourism sector, Mr. Pintard added: “In terms of second home ownership, Abaco has been a pacesetter before we knew about Airbnb. Abaco was doing it all along. In tourism I’m advised that Abaco has been doing an exceptional job.
“For the first six months of the year you have seen a 16.3 percent increase in air arrivals. Air arrivals account for some 89 percent of revenue generated by visitors. Tourism has an opportunity in Abaco to explode even further by creating linkages between other sectors such as agriculture and marine resources.”
Mr. Pintard added that Abaco has 16 festivals and events through the year which are often avenues for artisans to showcase their products. He said that he would seek to increase the allocation for Abaco’s festivals.
He also said that there is an opportunity to develop Abaco’s sports culture and find ways to attract national and international athletes to the island.