A wake-up call

Dear Editor,

The plague that besets us awoke nations to the realization that overdependence on outsiders to supply necessities could spell their destruction like nothing else, and we in this produce-nothing Bahamas are especially vulnerable.

Have you experienced standing on any of the long, nervous, desperate lines outside even smaller corner food stores on New Providence?

Do you realize perhaps as much as 99.99 percent of the foodstuff we’re anxiously towing those endless lines for are products of other nations?

Well consider for a moment what will happen to us if those we depend on, at some time, no longer have surpluses to export.

We are a visionless people blessed with a climate conducive to growing practically every kind of vegetable and, unlike our seasonal suppliers, we are capable of growing them the whole balmy year round and producing as many as four crops every year instead of just one.

As for tropical fruits and melons of all types, which among them can we not grow enough of to satisfy our own needs?

It has been proven we can grow rice in our wetlands — especially in Andros; we can grow enough sugarcane to produce all the sugar and its by-products we need; and what’s stopping us from growing corn to make our own grits, meal and even flour?

Visit any packinghouse on our Family Islands and you’ll find they reject more of our struggling farmers’ produce than they ship to the exchange in Nassau, where the wastes continues.

I say this because, with my own eyes, I witnessed truckloads of spoiled fruits and vegetables regularly heading from there to the public dump during my years fishing from Potter’s Cay.

Is it any wonder our farmers are so lowly motivated and are hardly doing more than going through the motions?

One doesn’t have to be a genius to see establishing packaging and canning factories would put an abrupt end to this wastage and ignite a passion for farming the likes of which none could dream would be possible.

It is even worse with meat and other animal products.

I still remember when we didn’t have to import milk, chicken and eggs.

There was a time we labeled Long Islanders “sheep runners” for a darn good reason, and it boggles my mind why some enterprising Andros “crab catcher” hasn’t yet started marketing frozen crabs instead of letting great multitudes of them die on their hands every season.

You tell me why in the world we can’t rear enough cows, sheep, goats, poultry and pigs to supply all our country’s meat needs.

I remember from my time as a boy in Fresh Creek, ranchers from cattle-rearing states in the U.S. would visit and pay $10 for a quart of jumbey seeds, a staggering amount in those days when a soda cost roughly 10 cents.

Why else would they travel so far and pay so heftily for jumbey seeds when endless grassland dominated their own country?

We won’t have to import feed for we are also blessed with other indigenous plants besides jumbey that animals graze on, so let’s raise them and stop coughing up our scarce dollars to purchase imported meat.

Bahamians, God did His part in providing us a country with available land that’s been in fallow from creation and an ideal climate to complement it; we need to set about using it.

It is time bumbling bureaucratic governments opt out of direct involvement in farming and provide necessary incentives to private visionary individuals who have real passion for growing crops, for animal husbandry, for bottling, canning, packaging and marketing, so they can make Bahamaland totally independent in this most vital area of food production.

Vernon Montague Johnson II

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