BAIC Opens Opportunities In Food Processing

Friday 25th, November 2011 / 08:20 Published by

Edison M. Key, BAIC

MIAMI, Florida, US — BAIC is opening opportunities for Bahamians in food processing and horticulture through important contacts in Florida.

Executive chairman Edison M Key described as “very fruitful” a four-day fact-finding mission he and BAIC heads of department undertook to South Florida beginning November 14.

They visited the Miami office of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), attended the 15th America’s Food and Beverage Show and Conference, were received at the University of Florida’s Tropical Research and Education Centre, and toured two nurseries.

They also paid a courtesy call on City of Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones. The meeting was organized by Consul General Rhoda M Jackson to discuss a project to promote Bahamian cultural venue in the downtown river area.

“Everywhere we went, we got offers to assist Bahamians,” said Mr Key. “We encourage Bahamians to take advantage of these opportunities to build the local industry and empower our people.”

BAIC board secretary Vernita Rhodenwalt, general manager Benjamin Rahming, assistant general managers Arnold Dorsett (agriculture) and Judith Thompson (lands), and senior food processor, Tonjia Burrows, head of the Food Processing Department accompanied Mr Key.

At the IICA meeting, continued co-operation with BAIC was underscored as IICA Bahamas goes through a transition of leadership.

It was agreed that in all cases the revitalization process of the agriculture sector in The Bahamas must be accelerated in view of rising food prices and the vulnerable position of the country in terms of food security.

IICA undertakings in The Bahamas include the greenhouse and small ruminants programs.

IICA also assisted in obtaining the services of agro processing specialist Donna Marie Bromfield and coconut production specialist Dr Wayne Anthony Myrie, both from Jamaica.

Ms Bromfield has been tasked with assisting BAIC and producers associations with preparation and capacity enhancement techniques.

She will also advise BAIC on the kinds of equipment and training plans Bahamian technicians will have to undertake.

Dr Myrie is assisting in the preparation to revitalize the coconut production industry, procuring the kinds of varieties of coconuts that can be considered, and plans for capacity building for producers.

The Food and Beverage Show showcased hundreds of booths featuring numerous added-value products, equipment and technical expertise from Canada, the Americas, and the Caribbean.

Assistant general manager for agriculture, Mr Dorsett, saw a niche there for Bahamian products.

“Many Caribbean countries were represented and they brought their uniqueness to the show,” he noted. “Why can’t The Bahamas have its goat pepper sauce, for example, and other things that are indigenous to The Bahamas exposed at that venue? It would increase demand for that product internationally.

“The challenge though is for us to increase productivity in order to have sufficient volume to do some of the things we saw at the show.

“As soon as we get in that environment with our samples someone orders 100 cases of goat pepper sauce, what then?”

Officials at the University of Florida’s Tropical Research and Education Centre (TREC), Institute of food and Agricultural Sciences, said they were willing to help Bahamians get established.

“We should be able to tap into some of the technical and capacity building services they offer and which we need,” said Mr Dorsett.

Last year when Andros farmers were experiencing a problem with their tomato production, Dr Robert McMillan, Jr, a plant pathologist, was brought in to investigate and advise on a course of action.

Dr McMillan, Professor Emeritus at the University of Florida, is also director of research and development at Kerry’s Nurseries.

TREC hosts a one-week crash course on the fundamentals of agriculture and Bahamians are invited to participate. The cost is being negotiated.

“They may be able to allow Bahamians to have a discount equal to that of being in the state of Florida,” said Mr Dorsett. “The difference would be about a third off the full amount.”

At Pine Island and Kerry’s nurseries, the BAIC delegation was shown the range of possibilities for propagating fruit trees and ornamentals from seeds or through tissue culture.

It was from Pine Island that BAIC last year purchased 1,500 various tropical fruit trees. They were sent to agriculture associations in the islands and distributed to farmers. The plants are adapting well.

“Pine Island and Kerry’s have offered to help wherever possible,” said Mr Dorsett. “It was a very fruitful visit.”

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