Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard said the government is determining the best avenue to help the fisheries and agriculture industries on Grand Bahama and Abaco rebuild. The damage to those sectors is in excess of $80 million, estimated the minister.
Pintard said the ministry partnered with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – the agriculture arm of the United Nations – and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), to conduct the initial assessments, which resulted in the staggering figure.
“We know that the sector has been adversely affected. To put it in context, two of the three most important economies in The Bahamas have been devastated. Abaco is arguably the leading economy as it relates to agriculture in The Bahamas, with some of the major producers such as Abaco Big Bird and others on that island,” Pintard told reporters on Tuesday.
“The one major food processing, fisheries processing plant has been devastated. So, we are now in the process of considering what package might the government and in conjunction with the international community offer farmers and fishers who do not have insurance. Those persons who are building, such as the food processors, are likely to have insurance for their buildings, but most of that sector does not have insurance and we have an obligation in my mind to assist them in rebounding.”
In the meantime, the ministry is still appealing to members of the fishers and agriculture communities to send in the relevant information so that it can get a sense of the impact Hurricane Dorian had on facilities, equipment, vehicles and products including plants and livestock, and food inventories in the case of processor plants.
“We want to get a sense of how they would have been impacted. The initial figures are quite staggering, comfortably in terms of damages in excess of $80 million from the initial reports that we have,” he said.
“These figures are dynamic because we did a rapid assessment with our international partners, but a more detailed assessment is ongoing, because you have to actually find farmers and fishers to get their report. So up to Monday I was still getting information from particularly fishers in east Grand Bahama, who we could not reach in the assessment and they were coming in with significant figures as well. Persons who have lost multiple boats, engines, et cetera. It is a tragedy all around for the sector.”
How the ministry intends to fund the assistance to impacted farmers and fishers, Pintard said, is still being determined.
“One, we have to reprioritize resources we already have; secondly, Cabinet has already approved extra spending for the various sectors, agriculture being one of those sectors. So, again the initial approval of additional funds is clearly insufficient and so that is part of why we have to have discussions with international partners, to see if there are additional ways we can access resources to impact them,” he said.
“Some farmers who, for example, due to illness or the previous hurricane, were not functioning during the time immediately after those personal tragedies or environmental tragedies, the ministry has a policy of requiring that all back payments be made. So, there may be an unregistered farmer who in reality, had it not been for their personal tragedy would be registered and would benefit, so we would make the determination should they benefit. In my mind they should.”