|Landscapers reach partial truce with MoA|
Guardian Business Editor
Published: Aug 20, 2012
The Ministry of Agriculture has reached a temporary truce with the Bahamas Landscaping Association (BLA).
For the immediate future, the government has agreed to waive the strict approval process for trees and other landscaping products. The system will revert to the original arrangement whereby products are approved by Customs within three days.
Under the proposed system by the Ministry of Agriculture, all trees must be personally approved and signed off by the Minister of Agriculture V. Alfred Gray.
Conray Rolle, the chairman of the BLA, said both sides have come to a temporary arrangement as they prepare to meet at the bargaining table.
"We support what they are trying to do, but feel the method is a bit unorthodox," he told Guardian Business. "The minister is not stating everything is back to normal. He is trying to see what is available locally."
Earlier this month, Guardian Business obtained a letter from the BLA to the Ministry of Agriculture that condemned an "irresponsible and reckless" amendment to the port procedure for trees. Major companies that bring in products in Florida, such as Caribbean Landscape Limited and Nature's Way, reported significant delays from the sudden change in circumstances. In fact, they reported collective losses in the range of $500,000, as their livelihood was literately left dying on the docks awaiting approvals.
Guardian Business has been unable to reach Gray for comment. However, it is generally understood that the move is part of the government's drive to provide added support for local companies rather than relying on suppliers out of Florida.
Rolle confirmed the BLA has made contact with Gray.
"He pledged there won't be any more long delays. He will waive the current system. There will be no moratoriums, no stops on anything coming in, according to him," he said.
The chairman of the BLA noted that his association is prepared to support local industry, although in the past, he expressed concern on whether Bahamian producers are capable of supplying what's needed.
The supply chain, import policy and other issues surrounding the controversy will no doubt be a topic of conversation at a formal meeting between the BLA and the Ministry of Agriculture this week.
"We are meeting as an association next Thursday to put forward our concerns and how we can partner with the ministry to achieve their goals," he told Guardian Business.
The meeting should go a long way to repairing an apparent rift between industry and the government.
In the letter to the government, the BLA said the "unexpected and unpublished amendment" to the import process had caused considerable concern among stakeholders in regards to the ministry's direction and support for industry.
Adam Isaac, general manager of Caribbean Landscape Limited, said the firm had been unable to get answers on what was happening as the product simply died on the dock.
"The funny part of this, is it's for a government project at the (Queen Elizabeth) Sports Centre. We are trying to move this project along at the sports center and can't seem to get material approved for shipment, which has never been a problem in the past," he told Guardian Business.
Caribbean Landscape Limited and other local firms are also playing a leading role in Baha Mar and the airport redevelopment project.