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November 01, 2011

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Eddie

What we can do is invest in the agriculture sector in Haiti and import our fruits and vegetables from our neighbor in the south. It has a two-fold effect,we can finally get a return on our investment and secondly, it will result in one less person trying to move to The Bahamas.

Nicholas Cripps

I read your column with interest since you covered most of the agricultural 'thinking' people of today in the Bahamas.
I was amazed to read the low returns from Andros, since I believe it is the breadbasket of the Bahamas, and should be really pushed into professional horticultural production.
A very long time ago I proposed that a block of 500 acres minimum should be organised into a cooperative of ten Bahamian farmers, each owning 50 acres.
My reason for this size is two-fold. Firstly, the then Prime Minister had been told by the UK Government that they did not think one farmer could handle more than 50 acres, and secondly to become fully mechanised the minimum land needed would be 500 acres.
Thus a cooperative managed by a "professional horticulturalist" with all the necessary equipment to grow vegetables in the most modern techniques could produce an incredible amount of food for the Bahamas.
Agriculture is a seven-day job, and with only limited amount of labour needed, because of the machinery available, it could well be of interest to the farmers who own the land, and when they are all needed, plus others, for harvesting, they could all be available.
The produce could be brought FRESH into Nassau by boat, and should compete against produce that is being produced in another Country, due to the mechanisation.
Unfortunately, the small island farmers would have to up their game, or choose crops that are more profitable, since they are too small to compete against a large modern farm. However, they would still be able to use the present subsidised system to sell their produce.
Some time ago I visited Homestead in Florida and they basically have the same soil (!!) as we do, but their management of the ground is highly professional and with irrigation and fertilisers and plastics they can produce incredible amounts of product.
Andros has this land and people have created big farming there before, so why cannot the Government put a big effort into the agricultural economy and get it started?
To answer your question about agriculture, YES, it is most important for the future if we are to survive another calamity like 9-11, with only three days produce in the shops, I heard.
Agriculture in most of the world runs on a rotational five-year system to keep the well being of the land useful, but here we do not seem to have a rotation except leaving land fallow, which is non-productive land.
Maybe the powers that be can help with this one, since I know several of the agricultural experts that you talked about, and maybe they could get together and refurbish the agricultural system here.
All I know is that Bahamians and foreigners have run large farms in the past successfully, and I believe the only problem to doing it again is lack of funding and farmers cooperating together.
Lastly the modern home hydroponics is fairly easy to follow, and grow home vegetables, and anybody who went to Epcot in the olden days, as I did, could not help to be impressed by their cultivation in that department. Any household can produce, with a little effort and it educates our young people as well.
We have to grow our own food at competitive prices here in the Bahamas, and the only way is to go big enough and become fully mechanised as well.
Put the numbers together on a 500-acre productive horticultural farm and see what we can save from imports alone..

larry smith

Thanks for your comments.

The point of my article was not that farming could never be successful here, but that the constant calls for massive investment in agriculture and the belief that we can achieve food security through such investment are not rooted in reality.

I believe the suggestions you made about Andros were tried with BARTAD and, as with most things in the Bahamas, implementation was a big problem - due to politics, favouritsm, and poor management. See my 2008 article on this...

http://www.bahamapundit.com/2008/05/food-self-suffi.html

In 2010 I wrote about the prospect of large-scale Chinese investment in farming on Abaco that further discussed these issues...

http://www.bahamapundit.com/2010/04/chinese-farming-investment-on-abaco.html

Backyard farming and market gardening seem feasible, but large-scale commercial farming doesn't make sense when you consider the alternatives. And in my view it is a misuse of our natural resources.

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