The Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs Clay Sweeting thinks poultry production will be the industry that begins to reduce the country’s $1 billion food import bill, a statement from his ministry explained, adding that the government will look at offering incentives to boost chicken and egg production in the country.
Sweeting’s Progressive Liberal Party government has inherited an economy fraught by food supply shortages and delays. It has been hyper-focused on solving the country’s long-standing issue of not being able to produce enough food for local consumption.
The second part of the food equation is the amount of money the country spends in imports per year, which is said to be near $1 billion. Sweeting thinks the start to reducing that import bill is is likely a chicken and egg scenario.
“Poultry is one of those ways where we think that we can do that,” said Sweeting.
“Jamaica has done an excellent job in the poultry industry and now Guyana is one that is following suit.
“We are trying to look at some quick wins for The Bahamas. In the 1990s, poultry was a contributing factor, especially in Eleuthera, where we had a chicken farm in the 1970s.
“Egg production as well as broilers are ways that we are looking at making dents in agricultural food imports, and hopefully these will be quick wins where we can get persons involved.”
While Sweeting acknowledged the successes of poultry producers like Abaco Big Bird, his government wants to greatly expand the sector via new players and incentives.
He added that the government is seeking the expertise of broiler chicken producers in the region to expand the market in The Bahamas.
“My view and vision is to encourage, enhance and to get a proper policy decision with the government where we can encourage farmers in this sector,” he said.
“I feel that we as a country and as a ministry can help enhance the sector, whether it be by concessions or other avenues.
“We have spoken to companies like Jamaican Broilers and we are supposed to meet with Caribbean Broilers, where they can help us to help Bahamians who want to get involved in the sector and who are now wanting to expand.
“We have spoken with Abaco Big Bird as to how we, as a government, can support them. For the most part, it is supporting the farmers where we have lacked over the last few decades.”
The Ministry of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs said in the statement that it will continue to train technical officers who will be able to assist farmers, and will continue to work with the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC) on enhancing feed mills throughout The Bahamas.
“In order for poultry or any livestock to be successful, proper feed is a concern, so we are still working with BAIC – which has carriage over the feed mill – to put together a proper plan so that sooner or later, persons who want to get involved in that part of the sector will not have the concern of whether or not they can purchase feed,” Sweeting said.
“Feed is the backbone of our industry and we are hoping that in a few months, we will have that ironed out as well.”
Sweeting insisted that while poultry farming is considered to have high inputs, it can still be a lucrative industry.