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$14m bakery bill

The Bahamas has racked up a sweet tab of$14 million for baked goods imports in 2009, according to a regional trade report, with no significant exports made in this category to significantly balance that outflow.

According to the Caribbean Community’s(CARICOM)Office of Trade Negotiations report on CARICOM Baked Products Trade, The Bahamas comes in third in a ranking of countries in the region that have contributed to the region’s$108.5 million baked product import bill.

“Haiti was the top CARICOM importer of baked products in 2009, spending some$17 million in import spending,”said the report.”Other CARICOM member states with significant baked products import spending in 2009 were Jamaica(at$16 million), The Bahamas(at$15 million), Trinidad and Tobago(at$14 million)and Barbados(at$9 million).”

While CARICOM baked product exporters generated$52.7 million in international sales in 2009, The Bahamas was unable to play a major role in that category. That’s despite”trade agreements such as the Economic Partnership

Agreement-which provides duty relief for everything that can be produced in the region(subject to rules of origin compliance), the Latin American trade agreements that the region continues to benefit from, the Caribbean Basin Initiative and CaribCan arrangements, in addition to the CSME which provides another tool to assist regional bakeries to internationalize through eliminating tariffs and other barriers to export trade,”noted the report.

Thegovernment has been unable to put a dent into the near$500 million food import bill, with President of the Bahamas Agricultural Producers Association(BAPA)Keith Campbelladding that an active approach needs to be taken to cut into that bill, with local farmers being the key.

He toldGuardian Businesslast week that more involvement from farmers in the country will be essential to reducing The Bahamas’food import tab, pointing to the creation of more programs that encourage growth in the sector.

“Bahamian farmers play the biggest role and really are vital to reducing the food import bill, there’s no secret about that,”Campbell said in an earlier interview.”More co-operatives need to be formed to increase activity among farmers and position them to contribute to the economy by the production of their own products. They play a pivotal role.”

The BAPA head added that recording such a high food import bill year after year shouldn’t come as a surprise, as a great supply is needed to support the population throughout The Bahamas. However, he said developing the local sector would translate into a noticeable difference in the total.

“We have a lot of tourists that come in the country so it’s understandable to have such a high bill,”he said.”We can’t produce every product that we import, but if we take the right approach in developing our local products then it will go a long way in reducing the import bill over time and will go a long way in development.”

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