Categorized | National News

$1M Challenge For Farmers

Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources V. Alfred Gray on Monday said the government is prepared to pump massive amounts of money into farming and fishing and issued a $1 million challenge to any Bahamian wanting get in the field.

During his 2012/2013 Budget contribution in the House of Assembly, Minister Gray said over the years there has been too much inconsistency regarding agriculture.

In a bid to kill two birds with one stone – tackling unemployment while giving Bahamians the ability to feed themselves – Minister Gray said the government is committed to providing the financial backing for the country to once and for all establish a steady agriculture industry.

“I want to challenge 10 Bahamians who are willing to come forward today or tomorrow,” he said.

“We’ve got land. We’ve got farm land in New Providence, some in Grand Bahama, in Abaco we’ve got plenty. In Andros we’ve got even more. We have the technical and scientific know-how. The minister of finance has indicated that he is willing to spend up to $1 million in agriculture for those who dare to come forward.”

Minister Gray said his ministry’s proposed recurrent budget is pegged at $43,386,766 with $6,548,054 earmarked for the Ministry of Agriculture and another $7,640,612 for the Department of Agriculture, $2,811,710 will go to Marine Resources and the remaining $26,380,390 to the Department of Local Government.

It is a known fact that the country spends more than $500 million buying food each year, and Mr. Gray said if history is any teacher, with just the drop of a dime, The Bahamas could find itself without that necessity.

“I was minister in 2002, just after the 9/11 which happened in the United States,” he said. “And I remember that the United States blockaded their country, no ships coming in and none went out.”

“The Bahamas was affected by that because they are our biggest food supplier. We analysed when I came to office that we only had enough in this entire country to sustain us for three months.”

He added that if the United States and other countries decided not to import food to The Bahamas anymore, Bahamians would go hungry in a matter of weeks.

Minister Gray said with major developments like Baha Mar coming on stream even more food will need to be shipped into the country, potentially hiking the price tag on food imports to about $1 billion.

But the cry for more Bahamians to get involved in agriculture is not new as successive governments have taken on the same challenge, but with little rewards.

According to the minister, in 1978 some 4,246 Bahamians worked in agriculture but in 1994 that number plunged to 1,700. Today, he said the figure hovers around 2,000.

“All the school leavers will never work in tourism and banking and financial services,” he added. “Somebody has to work the fields and the farms and there is dignity in all forms of work”.

“I know some farmers who tell me they would not switch their profession for anything else because they are making a good living.”

Minister Gray said in 2011 The Bahamas raked in $73 million in fishing exports alone.

He added that the government is also seeking to provide concessions for farmers for the seeds they need to cultivate the land.

Additionally, he said his ministry will seek to build farm roads in most Out Islands making it easier for farmers to get to their plots.

Minister Gray said plans are also in the works to rebuild the packing house in Exuma.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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