|Gray focuses on food import bill|
Guardian Business Reporter
Published: Sep 12, 2012
Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister V. Alfred Gray is looking to significantly reduce The Bahamas’ nearly $500 million import bill.
“As we see growth in the agricultural fields, I think that we will be able to bring the reduction in our import bill to at least 25 to 30 percent, which is a sizeable amount,” according to Gray.
Yesterday he told reporters at the World Trade Organization (WTO) Sanitary and Pytosanitary (SPS) Enquiry Point and National Notification Authority Training Conference, hosted by the U.S Embassy at the British Colonial Hilton, that he sees agriculture and its related fields contributing more than a half billion dollars to the country’s economy on an annual basis. The fisheries industry already pumps in more than $77 million.
“We are constantly seeking to encourage more Bahamians to get involved in the agricultural and fisheries sectors. I have gone throughout The Bahamas to try and persuade Bahamians that they should start in their backyards with a little cabbage or tomato patch, instead of planting grass, because you can’t eat grass. If each yard was to do that, it would have a multiplying effect and it would reduce the bill by a good percentage,” he explained.
“I believe the day will come though when the white-collared jobs will all be taken and my brothers and sisters will be forced to join me in the agriculture and fisheries sector to find a meaningful way of life.”
The Bahamas currently imports approximately $500 million worth of food per year, mostly from the U.S.
In July, Gray said he would consider a ban on certain imports if Bahamian farmers proved they could produce food in sufficient quantities at a reasonable price.
“When you take us outside of the backyard to major farms, could you imagine what would happen if we can have fifty acres of just corn being grown by somebody. I’m happy to say that we have some very good plans on the table and we are working with the farmers,” the agriculture and marine resources minister said.
Gray believes that Bahamians will begin to see the fruits of his ministry’s labor within the next year or so, but noted the key is to encourage younger Bahamians to start looking at the agricultural and fisheries industries as their first viable option. As it stands, Gray revealed that it’s not a popular industry to get into.
“It’s not easy because Bahamians do not like to farm. The young people that are coming out of school do not see agriculture and fisheries as their first choice. I want to say that the government is ready, willing and able. Despite the financial constraints that the country is in, we, as a government are doing the best we can to strengthen these industries.”