Abaco Holds Successful Agribusiness Expo
The last of 12 Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources Family Island Agribusiness Expos took place in Marsh Harbour, Abaco last weekend.
The initiative seeks to bring awareness to the importance of agriculture and fisheries and to increase meaningful participation therein by consumers and producers.
This year brought together New Providence, Eleuthera, North Andros, Long Island, San Salvador, Grand Bahama, Bimini, South Andros, Mangrove Cay, Exuma and Inagua.
Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Lawrence S. ‘Larry’ Cartwright hailed Abaco “a major force” in agriculture and fisheries which has “set a high standard.”
“The wide array of agricultural, fisheries and handicraft items is most encouraging,” said Mr. Cartwright, the featured speaker at the opening ceremony.
“It makes real our theme: ‘Progressing Toward Food Security’. You have gotten bigger and better in all aspects of your presentations this time around.”
Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC) executive chairman Edison M. Key underscored the need to strengthen food production.
“Feeding ourselves ought to be a matter of national priority, when it is taken into consideration the dire warnings from international organisations that the cost of importing food is not going to get any less expensive,” said Mr. Key.
“I cannot remind you enough that there are at least $500 million to be made in food production. That is the amount we import each year to feed our residents and tourists.
“And as has been demonstrated most successfully, much of what we import can be produced right here in our islands.”
Abaconians flooded BAIC Park, Marsh Harbour, with agriculture, marine and handicraft products. It attracted a large contingent from Nassau including the new representative for the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Manuel Messina.
Minister Cartwright said it was “essential” for the nation to invest in food security.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources five-year plan for the development of the sectors “is making significant progress,” he said.
Since the rapid assessment of the sectors, a Country Framework Programme which highlights priorities, has been completed.
It includes improvement in data management capacity for the Department of Marine Resources; formulation of fisheries and aquaculture policy; support to negotiate and implement trade agreements; transformation of the packing house and produce exchange; and the Forestry Pilot Project which seeks to train rangers and forestry staff, conduct an inventory of forestry stock, and explore the establishment of lumber industry through sustainable harvesting of trees.
Support for land clearing is being maintained. Financial assistance is continued, said Mr. Cartwright.
There are 11,737 acres of Crown land in Abaco designated for agriculture of which 4,502 remains available for leasing.
“I encourage all those who are interested to take steps to secure your piece of this farming resource,” said Mr. Cartwright.
Two more Marine Protected Areas have been created in the Abaco chain at Crab Cay and No Name Cay.
“This should certainly go a long way in preserving and sustaining our marine resources,” he said. “We can all ill afford the non-availability of our scrumptious grouper, conch, crabs and lobsters.”
Progress has also been made with the initiative to improve the sustainability of the spiny lobster.
At a 2010 meeting held in Abaco to discuss the threats associated with illegal fishing resulted in the launch of a public education campaign.
“A task force that was instituted to review concerns relative to poaching has provided recommendations to the Government to address such concerns,” said Mr. Cartwright.
“So, suffice it to say that the spiny lobster would invariably be more manageable and should prove to soon be a viable source of income not only through local means but also via exporting possibilities.”
Additional staffers for the packing house in Abaco is actively being pursued, he said.
“As you consider the large scale possibilities of the agriculture and marine resources industry,” said Mr Cartwright, “let us not forget to continue to fine tune our products on an individual level so that mass production will be of a continual and progressive quality.
“Our strides toward food security have been an uphill battle and I am glad to be able to say that Abaco continues to tread alongside us in this undertaking.” -30-
By Gladstone Thurston
Bahamas Information Services