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Increased food prices expected

The Bahamas could see a significant rise in the price of staple foods, as the volatility of oil prices increases in 2011, according to Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Larry Cartwright.

Cartwright said that same fluctuation in oil prices has kept the prices of locally produced agricultural products high, as much of the fertilizers, pesticides and even seeds have an oil based component.

“Production has increased…,”he said.”Once oil prices increase the price of fertilizers and pesticides increase.”

He noted that the Food and Agricultural Organization(FAO)of the United Nations revealed recently that its price index indicated an increase in food prices last year.

“You would be aware that prices dropped considerably up until around June and July, especially the meats, dairy, cereals, oils and fats,”Cartwright said.

“The prices seemed to start to increase rapidly[in]July 2010 and by the end of December prices had reached their peak.”

Cartwright suggested that as a result of this increase it is more important than ever for The Bahamas to increase its overall crop production, even in

private households through the highly touted and encouraged backyard farming.

“The impact on food in The Bahamas is significant because as long as we live, we have to eat,”he said.”And if we don’t produce our food we have to go to the food stores and purchase imported food and once the price is high out there we will feel the pinch.”

Cartwright added that although The Bahamas has increased production of some crops, prices remain close to imported products.

“The prices of the produced food in The Bahamas may not show a drastic contrast with imported prices, they may even be equal to or higher than,”he said.”It is certainly difficult from my seat to make a prediction on when the prices would rise(further).”

According to Cartwright, another enormous hindrance to the development of the agricultural sector of The Bahamas is the labor pool.

He contended that Bahamians see the job of farming as menial and physically taxing.

“We are our worst enemy,”he said.”It is because of the stigma attached to farming it is seen as a back-breaking job where you are exposed to the elements.”

However, he insisted that by 2013 The Bahamas will be producing a larger amount of fresh produce than it does now.

He said The Bahamas will be able to export onion, pineapples and much more grapefruit by that time.

“In The Bahamas we have tried to do our best over the last several years to increase our food production,”Cartwright said.

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