Expert calls for’Marshall Plan’approach on agriculture
A Bahamian farmer producing $100,000 worth of produce a year can only get a maximum of$9,000 in gross profit annually from a packing house, the same level of profit that he has gotten for the last 18 years.
The challenge of increasing small farmers’access to markets is much bigger than altering the exchange maximum, according to Dr. Keith Campbell, veterinarian and President of the Bahamas Agricultural Producers Association. He told the Rotary Club of West Nassau his prescription for the industry.
“I am advocating that we should combine our natural endowments with appropriate technology and innovative product development and marketing strategies in order to profitably compete with the big fish in the vast expanse of ocean, which is the World Trade Organization(WTO),”Campbell said.
Instead of moving towards genetically modified food and cultivation, or rearing techniques that add chemicals, biologicals, hormones or heightened stress levels for animals, Campbell believes The Bahamas’agricultural export niche should be,”they do no harm.”
“This should be our mission statement, our logo and our corporate brand,”the doctor said.”We should be about the provision of healthy recreation, relaxation and nutrition to the world.”
This approach is a part of what Dr. Campbell refers to as agritourism, which he said was a focus on the complementary development of the agricultural and tourism sectors as a sustainable means of livelihood and of growing the gross domestic product. He contrasted this with agrotourism, which he said was a focus on agricultural development to broaden the range of locally produced goods offered to tourists.
Campbell also called for”something akin to a Marshall Plan”for agriculture. The Marshall Plan was a reconstruction initiative introduced by the United States in Europe following the devastation as a result of from World War II.
Policy initiatives, appropriate funding and innovative financing could be addressed by any such plan, Campbell said. He added that no proposed funding levels could be reasonably stated without a plan.
“Its definitely going to take a few million[dollars]over a period of time,”he added.
Innovative financing regimens could include making Crown land”bankable”. Campbell said that if a farmer currently has a lease for crown land and approaches the Bahamas Development Bank for a loan, that land cannot be used as collateral. The farmer needs to find other assets to use as collateral for financing.
“It’s a plan, it’s a fund, its training and sensitizing people. It’s like regrouping. I’m big on the cooperative movement. BAIC(Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation)is going around forming all these individual farmers associations. They should be forming cooperatives. That’s the way you empower[farmers].”