Organic Farming Encouraged In The Bahamas

IICA’s Bahamas representative, Dr Marikis Alvarez (left), and farmer Kirk Deleveaux discuss guava production during a tour of North Andros farms last weekend. Also pictured are BAIC executive chairman, Edison M Key (centre) and assistant general manager for agriculture, Arnold Dorsett. (BIS photo/Gladstone Thurston)

The Bahamas — The Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA) is encouraging Bahamians to take advantage of the lucrative organic farming industry.

And, Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC) executive chairman Edison M Key wants young Bahamians to consider fruit tree propagation as a career path.

He is paving the way for that, he said, by establishing a nursery at the North Andros Agro-Industrial Park.

He hoped to attract The College of The Bahamas to use the facility as part of its practical activities.

IICA’s Bahamas representative, Dr Marikis Alvarez, accompanied Mr Key and a high level BAIC team on a tour of farm facilities last weekend.

“In recent years, certified organic farming has become one of the world’s most dynamic export activities,” IICA noted in its new Hemispheric Organic Agriculture Program.

“This alternative method of production is making significant contributions to rural economies, the environment, and the social well-being of the farmers who practice it.”

It told of “an established international market, with differentiated prices and a demand for most organic products cannot be met”.

IICA is a specialized agency of the Inter-American System whose objectives are to encourage and support the efforts of member states to achieve agricultural development and well-being for rural populations.

“As people are becoming increasingly conscious about the quality of the food they eat, the demand for organic products is growing,” said Dr Alvarez.

“People are seeking out these kinds of fruits and vegetables because of the absence of the use of pesticides on them. They also fetch a higher price. People are willing to pay for them.

“The production of organic products as a business is a rapidly growing trend, which can be achieved here in The Bahamas.”

Dr Alvarez noted that agriculture in The Bahamas “has a huge potential” because of the size of the imports.

“The Bahamas is a net importing country, and thus, from a food security perspective, that is an area that definitely needs strengthening,” he said.

Experts, including those at the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Fund, he said, “are all advocating for reinvestment in the agriculture sector because it is a great stimulant in rural development.

“When you look at the value chain in agriculture production it creates a lot of labour and catalyzes more industries – trucking, storage, grading, packaging, distribution et cetera.

“When you add all these factors in the value chain, agriculture indeed becomes a great stimulant in most economies.

“So, any effort or initiative, from the public and private sectors, to catalyze agro business in our rural or Family Island communities is of great significance.”

A part of IICA’s objective is to help member states to bring agriculture to the forefront in policy discussions, because of its multiplier effect on the economy.

BAIC chairman Mr Key told of plans to propagate thousands of fruit trees for distribution throughout the islands.

BAIC recently purchased 1,500 mango, avocado, sugar apple, sour sop, and guava trees from a Florida nursery. They are to be used as bud wood.

“By multiplying the numbers through grafting and budding,” said Mr Key, “we want to be able to propagate our own fruit trees so we would not have to continue importing them.

“The whole idea is to be able to develop and expand the agriculture industry throughout the country by supplying farmers with fruit trees and vegetable seedlings in vast numbers.

“This is the future for food security for the country. And it can generate thousands of jobs. We are making a lot of progress.”

By: Gladstone Thurston
Bahamas Information Services