In light of global labor and supply chain disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources is injecting more than $1.6 million into local farms, as a part of the government’s emergency food production plan.
Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard said the plan is an attempt to ensure that The Bahamas can increase food production.
“Not in all food groups, but to target those food groups where there is a reasonable opportunity for import substitution,” he said.
“In other words, where we have a reasonable chance of producing in adequate amounts, cost effectively those fruits, vegetables, value-added foods and livestock that we can produce here in The Bahamas, that we are presently importing.”
Pintard said the possibility of reduced imports has created an urgent need for the government to order $1.6 million in farming-related supplies and materials within the next 14 days to accelerate food production.
“Toward this end, we have already begun the purchases. We are in the process of purchasing 343 hydroponic systems at a cost of $343,000; 10,000 back yard gardening kits at a cost of $240,000; and the intensification of the production of roots, tubers, vegetables, legumes, fruits and eggs at a cost of $376,217. This total spend, just for this one component of the program, is $1,626,939,” he said.
Pintard said the overarching goal is to increase the capacity of local farmers.
“Our third initiative is providing land clearing and preparation for farmland throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. We are utilizing the $1 million facility that we have obtained through the IDB to concentrate on post-Dorian agriculture work to assist Abaco and Grand Bahama. We have, beyond this $1 million, additional funds to assist all of the other Family Islands,” he said.
“The fourth component of our emergency plan is the increased provision of farm inputs. More than $400,000 is being allocated to assist with purchasing seeds, Pro Mix, livestock – which have already begun to be shipped to farmers – as well as animal feed, fertilizers and other inputs.”
Pintard added that in order to further accelerate food production, the focus needs to be on strengthening the production systems of existing farmers through the provision of inputs, to some extent guaranteed food pricing, and ensuring that where the government purchases food it must earmark funds to purchase those foods locally.
Pintard said a complete backyard farming guide will be reposted online this week, as the ministry emphasizes the need for more backyard gardeners.