Why can’t we feed ourselves?
Like most Bahamians, chicken is one of my most favorite meats, especially on the weekend enjoying a pot of chicken souse with friends or just by myself.
I have always been concerned about the processing of chickens that we find in our various food stores, whether it is the small mom-and-pop stores to the mega stores in in The Bahamas.
I am not quite sure what these chicken farmers – whether they are in the United States or South America – feed these chickens and how they are processed. It is amazing to me that one week these chickens are just wee chicks and several weeks later they are in the stores, which begs the question.. what the heck are they feeding these chickens? Unfortunately, what they are feeding these chickens end up in our bodies of our families. Food for thought!
With the increase of cases of cancer among Bahamians, one has to wonder how much of this is related to the food we consume.
We import most of our poultry from abroad, with a small amount from local producers in Nassau, Freeport and Abaco. Again, I don’t know if the local health ministries are aware of what these chickens are fed and what measures are taken to protect the local consumers.
Some time ago we got some level of comfort from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but recently with the amount of scandals from that entity, it makes one wonder what we are feeding ourselves and our children.
Which brings me to another point: Why is it that in 2019 we are still so dependent on importing the likes of chicken and pork into our countries?
Surely if Israel can provide food from out of the dessert, why can’t we have enough chicken and pork farmers filling the needs of our population?
I have always felt certain foods do not have to be imported into this country, such as cassava, pumpkins, papayas, limes.. I can go on!
We have very intelligent Bahamians running our country – central bank governors, doctors like Dr. Duane Sands doing major heart surgery and many more talented and smart Bahamians – and yet we can’t seem to master the most important thing that matters, which is feeding our people.
We have such an abundance of fish in our oceans and yet hotels are importing fish from outside the country. One study some years ago shows we have such an incredible amount of fish in our waters and we are not catching them fast enough, so they are actually dying of old age, imagine that!
We have been an independent country since 1973 – that’s is 46 years – and yet hotels that cater to millions of tourists each year have to import fish and conch from outside the country, not to mention the other 80 to 90 percent of foodstuff and beverages they import.
Can you imagine the amount of jobs that could be created if we reduced these imports by say 10 percent?
It’s mind boggling and I don’t know why successive governments have not kept their eye on the ball and made food production their number one priority. They have done the Bahamian people a disservice.
Yet it’s not entirely the government’s fault, as I am sure there are incentives in place to encourage chicken and pork operations, but perhaps it is not enough to encourage potential investors to put their money into local food production.
It would be interesting to see a foreign investor come into this market and make a success out of it, then fireworks would fly and questions would be asked why do we need foreign investors in the chicken and pork business.
What we need to do as Bahamians – like the foreign investor does – is to negotiate with the government and walk away with enough incentives to make the business work.
Yes, I am sure they will come up with all types of reasons and excuses about why we are still importing 95 percent of food into our country. I have no horse in this race as I am no longer in the water business, but when I was in that business I tried and was met with a cold silence and try as I could made no progress and became very frustrated.
At times we seem not to have come very far in 46 years, in areas that matter most like feeding ourselves. God help us if the boats and planes that bring us food from afar stop coming, then we really would be in a pickle. But why wait for disaster to strike? Please, let’s fix this before the hammer comes down.
I don’t like the word ‘can’t’, I believe with determination we can do almost anything and feeding our people is undisputedly a can do.
• William Wong is a two-term president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation, and two-term president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association. William Wong is a partner at Darville-Wong Realty. E-mail: [email protected].