Agriculture is key to diversity, Andros Outlook told

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<<< Onions are in season in North Andros. BAIC executive chairman Edison M Key, in town for the Andros Business Outlook, admires production.

Andros , Bahamas – Androsians are being encouraged to pursue agriculture as the catalyst for diversifying the economy thereby keeping “a significant portion of the tourism dollar at home.”

“The millions we use to import items are a good indication of what can be earned and a good estimation of the impact agriculture can have on the economy,” said Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BSIC) executive chairman Edison M Key.

He was a featured speaker at the first Andros Business Outlook last Friday (April 23) held at Stafford Creek’s Love at First Sight Lodge.
Organized by The Counsellors Limited, the forum featured leading Andros businesspersons interacting with political leaders and service providers.

They included Tourism and Aviation Minister the Hon Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace; Environment Minister the Hon Earl Deveaux; National Insurance Board director, Algernon Cargill; National Museums executive director, Dr Keith Tinker; Bahamas Ferries CEO, Khaalis Rolle; conservationist, Pericles Maillis and Tourism’s sustainable development office manager, Peter Douglas.

BAIC is mandated to stimulate, facilitate and encourage agricultural development and to expand and create opportunities for Bahamians to participate in the country’s economy, he said.

Although The Bahamas has a resident population of just over 350,000 persons, often overlooked are the 5 million tourists, he noted.

“We incur an annual food bill of some $500 million to support our residents and tourists,” Mr Key observed. “The challenge of feeding five million 350,000 people gives the government the opportunity to use agriculture as a catalyst for growth and development and reduce our food bill substantially.”

As a result, BAIC has embarked on a number of programs targeting the removal of constraints that prevent North Andros farmers from taking advantage of those opportunities.

While North Andros farmers have been producing quality products, they were having problems marketing them.

Over the past three years, BAIC has brought top New Providence buyers to Andros to meet with farmers and conduct fruitful trading.
BAIC has also been addressing some of the constraints on the production side of the industry.

And, it has provided for the services of an experienced technical manager, qualified in animal and plant production, and who has the ability to acquire new technology and transfer it to the farmers, said Mr Key.

With greenhouse technology, which is not common in The Bahamas, farmers can grow produce of the quality that is required for some upscale markets.

“To remove this constraint BAIC is in the final phase of bringing in two greenhouses of different designs and providing an expert to teach farmers for one season how to grow various crops in greenhouses,” said Mr Key.

Through the transfer technology BAIC is showing farmers how to improve production and quality from tree crops through various irrigation systems.

“BAIC is in the final phase of bringing in three irrigation systems and installing them on farms so we can demonstrate to farmers what can happen with orchards that are irrigated,” he said.

As mutton is a $6 million industry in The Bahamas, he said, animal husbandry can be “a very lucrative business in Andros.”

“BAIC is in the process of assisting some of the BARC farmers in renovating their pastures with the planting of the most nutritious tropical forages available thus increasing feed availability and quality,” said Mr Key.

BAIC is providing the improved genetic potential of the Boer goat to farmers in order to maximize production.

“I am of the view that through BAIC we can significantly impact unemployment and increase the standard of living in Andros and the Bahamas,” he said.

“Therefore BAIC will continue to seek to eliminate the production and marketing constraints as they relate to agriculture so that current and prospective farmers can further take advantage of the opportunities available in feeding 5 million 350, 000 people,” said Mr Key.