Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham bids Haitian President René Préval goodbye before leaving the reception held for delegates attending the 50th Anniversary of the Creation of the Inter-American Development Bank, July 16.
Nassau, Bahamas – The Bahamas is to import agricultural products directly from Haiti, Prime Minister the Rt Hon Hubert A Ingraham confirmed.
He said The Bahamas wants to grow more of its own food but it cannot produce an adequate amount for domestic consumption and the hotel sector.
”It will benefit The Bahamas if crops are imported from Haiti because fewer Haitians would leave home in search of jobs if they had employment opportunities in Haiti,” he said in an interview with BIS and ZNS following the IDB Forum in Haiti last weekend.
Prime Minister Ingraham also met privately with Haitian President René Préval at the National Palace, Port-au-Prince, during which time they discussed topics of mutual interests.
On his trip to Haiti, he was accompanied by Christine Thompson, Chief Economist, Ministry of Finance, and Haiti’s Ambassador to the Bahamas His Excellency Louis Harold Joseph. They were met in Port-au-Prince by the Bahamas’ Ambassador to Haiti His Excellency Davy Rolle.
Mr Ingraham pointed out that The Bahamas is selling in its food stores Haitian mangoes imported from Miami.
“Why can we not import the mangoes directly from Haiti to Nassau?” he asked. “Would it not be cheaper to do so?”
The same goes for vegetables grown in Haiti, he said.
“We have had complications in terms of certifying fruits grown in Haiti, as an example,” said the Prime Minister. “The Americans have found a way to deal with it why can’t we?”
Mr. Ingraham said he promised the Haitian President that by the end of the year, crops such as mangoes should be coming directly from Haiti without jeopardizing The Bahamas’ agricultural sector.
“We in The Bahamas have a long history of imposing on ourselves requirements and standards that are not in our interest,” he said. “At one time we would not import beef from Argentina because of some rules that we have.
“But the Argentines could export beef into the United States and we could buy the beef from there. We are going to seek to overcome that kind of thing.”
Meanwhile, the Government is going to maximize opportunities for Bahamians to go into food production.
“One of the things we can do in The Bahamas is increase the supply of goods and services to the tourism sector,” he said.
”It would create numerous jobs if Bahamians produced more things the tourists use, because while there are only 300,000 people residing in the country, nearly 5 million tourists pass through The Bahamas every year.”
Because the attraction and demand to get to The Bahamas “is so great,” said the Prime Minister, migration of Haitians there “is overwhelming.”
“We have intensified our efforts to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into The Bahamas,” he said. “At the same time, we have been seeking as best as we can to deal with those who are there, who are undocumented.
“We have also been providing status for those who have been in The Bahamas for long periods of time and who have a connection to the society.”
The Government, he said, is employing a multi-pronged approach to handling the illegal immigration problem.
“We have been able to beef up our protection,” he said. “We have craft stationed permanently at Inagua.
“We are working with the European Union to build a new docking facility at Ragged Island where Defence Force craft will be stationed.”
The Government recently purchased two aircrafts for the Defence Force.
“The Haitian authorities have been most co-operative with The Bahamas in terms of returning to Haiti those persons who come to our country illegally,” he said.
“At the same time we have been very fair in dealing with those who have been in the country and who have made a contribution to our development.”
Haiti’s President René Préval held a reception for officials attending the 50th Anniversary of the creation of the Inter-American Development Bank at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, July 16. Pictured from left are IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno; Haiti’s Prime Minister Michèle Duvivier Pierre-Louis; Haiti’s President René Préval; Prime Minister of The Bahamas the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham, and Prime Minister of Barbados the Hon. David Thompson. (Photo/The Bahamas Embassy in Haiti)