Haiti agricultural deal stalled, but still on the table
While an agreement to import agricultural products from Haiti has stalled due to unrest in the country, Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield said yesterday that it remains a work in progress.
“The uncertainty that arises out of sporadic unrest in Haiti has put a damper on any kind of a continuity in our talks and negotiations in this regard,” he said in an interview with The Nassau Guardian.
He added, “It’s a work in progress, because we realize that the situation as it stands now between The Bahamas and Haiti cannot pertain.
“It is unsustainable for us economically, socially and otherwise.”
Haitian President Jovenel Moise and Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis discussed an agreement to import agricultural products from Haiti last year ahead of the 29th Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Former Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Renward Wells noted that the produce and products that Haiti currently exports to the United States are purchased from the U.S. and imported into The Bahamas, and that the aim was to instead trade directly with Haiti.
Products from Haiti were expected to flow into the Bahamian market by December 31, 2018, with Haiti meeting all criteria and conditions, but Henfield said the timeline was impacted by the recent unrest in Haiti, and that talks between the two countries on the matter have not yet formally resumed.
However, he noted, “When I meet the Haitian foreign minister in various forums around the world, we discuss how to reengage, and actively we speak about it.”
The idea, although heavily discussed last year, was not a new one.
The Christie administration on July 29, 2014 signed three agreements with the Haitian government, which were intended to further trade development between both countries and lead to a decrease in illegal migration.
The agreements included a framework for bilateral cooperation, an agreement on trade and technical cooperation in agriculture and fisheries and an agreement on the promotion and protection of investments.
“We had declarations signed by points of agreement, security, agricultural pursuits and other things, tourism, signed by the leaders of both countries,” Henfield said.
He added: “We in The Bahamas, especially this administration, and I think that the previous administration as well to be fair, recognized that unfettered illegal migration from Haiti is unsustainable.
“It impacts us in too many facets of our national interest negatively.
“So a part of our mission to Haiti led by the prime minister was that we would engage the Haitian government in how we can mitigate unlawful migration from Haiti, and a part of it was that we would engage them in a bilateral agreement to assist them in their maritime law enforcement pursuits.
“…And also how we could possibly encourage agricultural pursuits in Haiti to inspire Haitians to remain at home who have more opportunity to work, and, of course, these were only declarations made between our countries which haven’t borne much fruit because of ongoing unrest in Haiti and the difficulty in determining who you’re going to be negotiating with next.
“So, we thought that Haitian agricultural pursuits would inspire Haitians to remain at home and provide opportunities for them to work, because what we’re seeing is economic migrants seeking to come to The Bahamas to be able to find a better way of life.”