Government Pledges Assistance for Farmers

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Prime Minister Hubert A Ingraham (left) takes a pass on making friends with these animals shown at the Agricultural, Marine Resources and Agri-business Expo. (Photo by Derek Smith)

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Sadie Curtis Primary School students perform at the Agricultural, Marine Resources and Agribusiness Expo opening session. (Photo by Derek Smith)

By: Gladstone Thurston

NASSAU, Bahamas – The government Thursday pledged assistance for farmers who lost crops and livestock as a result of flooding from tropical storm Noel last week.

“I assure those impacted by the storm that we in the government are sensitive to your difficulties, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said. “We will do our part to help you to restore yourself to your pre-Noel condition.”

Mr. Ingraham was the keynote speaker at the opening session of the Bahamas Agricultural, Marine Resources and Agribusiness Expo at the Gladstone Road Agricultural Centre.

Under the theme: ‘Promoting locally sustainable agricultural and marine production and consumption: Strengthening agribusiness’, the expo encompasses the full scope of the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources headed by Minister Larry Cartwright.

Sponsored primarily by the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources, the expo has drawn support from BAIC, Bahamas Agricultural Producers Association, the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture and others.

South Abaco MP Edison Key is the executive chairman of BAIC.

Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Cartwright proposed an insurance plan to assist farmers in times of disaster.

“The government will never be in a position to adequately compensate farmers and fishermen for losses resulting from natural disasters,” said Mr. Cartwright.

“The time has come for the establishment of a contributory disaster relief insurance programme, also referred to as coupon insurance.

“Farmers and fishermen will be encouraged to purchase coupons of a fixed face value and in the event of a declared disaster receive a payout of some multiple of the face value of each coupon.”

With dignitaries including Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament, senior government officials, diplomats and representatives from regional organizations present, Prime Minister Ingraham expressed confidence in the quality of the products exhibited.

“I look forward to the day, in the not too distant future, when your products will become more widely available, locally and internationally,” he said.

Mr. Ingraham acknowledged that The Bahamas “continues to import far too much of its food” and that agricultural and marine products “form far too small a percentage of our exports.”

This position, he said, will not change without a general recognition that agriculture can play a vital role in our national economic well-being.

The government, for its part said the Prime Minister, is committed to:

* Promoting effective linkages between the agricultural and the tourism and retail sectors;
* Facilitating the expansion of inter-island freight service to accommodate produce and crop trade between islands;
* Promoting the expansion of modern and environmentally friendly agricultural practices;
* Promoting the expansion of agricultural export;
* Causing the development of modern, efficient food processing plants;
* Promoting and supporting the establishment of farmers’ associations;
* Supporting the development of co-operatives; and,
* Establishing a farmers’ credit programme.

“I believe that increased and improved food production, processing, marketing and sales can help us realize a vision of prosperity, food security, and hence sustainable development,” said Prime Minister Ingraham.

“I trust that this exposition will help to build the relationships required for each producer to improve his product and thereby the state of agriculture, fisheries and food processing industries in the Bahamas.”