by Rick Lowe
With every new Minister of Agriculture, PLP or FNM, the speeches about agriculture are the same.
Regretfully the visions of the money fields that have been wasted on agricultural projects by the government that I might conjure up for you wouldn't be as inspiring as fields of corn leaves and stalks, but in about seven years (2005 though 2012) the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources and the Department of Agriculture combined have spent some $81 million, and what do we have to show for it?
Heck in 2010 the Minister of Agriculture, devised a $42 million plan over five years to assist local farmers and stem the tide of food imports. No results have been reported yet, and they may never be known, if history is a yard stick, but we can assume they've been no less dismal than banning banana imports.
Of course it would be worthwhile to have more farmers and locally grown products. I love visiting farmers markets but there is no evidence that the prices are less or the product is any better than those that are imported. And that's the case here and abroad.
If you have not read it yet, I suggest you read the essay, Bahamian Agriculture, an overview by John Heddon. Download Bahamian Agriculture, an obverview (pdf) here...
"Mr. Hedden holds degrees in Botany from UWI Mona Campus and University of Reading UK and graduated from Government High School, Nassau, Bahamas. He has experience as a Horticulturalist for the USAID project BARTAD Andros, Horticulturalist for the Ministry of Agriculture at CAS (now GRAC), and then extension services. Mr. Hedden is now trying to establish a modern demonstration fruit and vegetable farm on 10 acres of 'crown' land. He presently lives on Abaco and has worked with farmers there for the last 25 years." So I think he knows a thing or two about farming here in The Bahamas.
The other book I would recommend on this not so trivial subject is The Locavore's Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-Mile Diet by husband and wife team, Pierre DesRochers and Hiroko Shimizu. Get your copy here…
The worlds food supply developed the way it has because there are different seasons for product, economies of scale that we have not yet been able to attain here and much more.
In a nutshell, the new Minister of Agriculture has announced nothing new, nor original and I submit it's more difficult to farm here than flowery speeches let on.
Maybe we should send up some white smoke and consider baby steps to help improve our local agricultural production rather than these giant steps into more and more government waste and hence national debt that we all must pay at some point, all the while contuining to import our food.