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BAIC hosts influential delegation to Andros

The likes of Bahamas Food Services, Super Value Food Stores and Atlantis have partnered with the “Buy Fresh, Buy Bahamian” campaign to help boost the slim agriculture sector.

In a room surrounded by an impressive list of supporters, the campaign announced yesterday that its banner promoting local food will fly in most major supermarkets and wholesalers in the country.

“Historically, marketing has been a serious challenge for farmers throughout the islands,” said Edison Key, the executive chairman of the Bahamas Agricultural & Industrial Corporation (BAIC). “They do provide quality products but wholesalers, retailers and consumers rarely knew what they had, when they had it, and what was being forecasted in the farms.”

This week, BAIC hopes to change that through a large delegation to Andros, whereby the stakeholders will meet the farmers, inspect the products and ask questions.

Amanda Wells, an agricultural officer with BAIC, said the campaign is meant to draw awareness to the sector and provide transparency in terms of the quality products in our backyard.

“The farmers and buyers are going to meet, exchange views and get on the same page,” she told Guardian Business. “There is very eager participation from the buyers. You can’t ask for better interest and that’s the foundation for the ball to start rolling.”

Indeed, also among the supporters of the campaign are Continental Foods, Phil’s Food Services, Solomon’s

Supercenter, Cost Right, SuperClubs Breezes and Bamboo Shack.

The Bahamas Hotel Association, the Ministry of Tourism and the Bahamas Culinary Association have also thrown their hat into the ring with BAIC.

According to Wells, the culinary side of the industry is a prime focus this year.

Two head chefs from Atlantis attended the event yesterday and will travel to Andros tomorrow. Wells said BAIC wants to take hotels and restaurants “under our wing” and show them the products available locally.

During his speech, Key asked the audience to imagine the impact on the Bahamian economy if the country produced even one-third of the $500 million annual national food bill paid to the U.S.

“When you buy local produce you are encouraging food security,” Key added. “We can still vividly remember what happened to us when the Americans closed their borders in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack on them.  We were cut off from our food supply.”

He also pointed out that the rise in oil and gas prices is another reason to secure a local agricultural sector.

Wells felt while there has been a persistent stigma against local food, those perceptions are beginning to change. The challenge, she said, is keeping prices consistent and competitive and making sure the quality is up to a particular standard.

It’s a task that BAIC is committed to achieving as more stakeholders meet the faces behind Bahamian agriculture.

“I think the campaign will push the hearts of the people,” he told Guardian Business. “Awareness is the most important thing.  We are building a foundation whereby people in this country are becoming sensitized to making this a stable economy and being sustainable.”

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