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February 25, 2013


Ken Clarke

Larry you have done your research and you make absolute sense. Now unless someone can refute your evidence directly they should shut the hell up.

Alfred B Dorsett

Larry, Your information is sound. The same challenges have to be addressed for any type of manufacturing as well, within the country. I was involved with a manufacturing operation previously. We had to import all of our ingredients & packaging etc. Then produce the products using Bahamian labour. While I was able to improve on the inefficiencies of the process, I was hit with not enough Local demand for the products. That meant exporting to the bigger market of the USA. But they already had domestic supplies of similar products and with the higher costs of our products & freight charges, it was a NO GO. The Economies of Scale demand that you produce great quantities before 'retooling' your production lines.
The Government incentives do not offset the transportation charges of component imports & Product exports.
Unless the product that is being produced is strictly dependent on the Local market for consumption it will not be financially viable. The only example that readily comes to mind is Drinking Water as a suitable local product for local manufacture.

Bob Knaus

Well researched, and your conclusion aligns with my experiences farming in south Florida and what I have observed in the Bahamas.

I would add that high-value farming can work very well with low-impact tourism. Anything on a restaurant menu or at a roadside stand that says "locally grown" is something tourists will buy just so they can have an authentic experience. I have heard many visitors express disappointment that there were so few locally grown fruits and vegetables available to them in the Family Islands.

Sandy Schaeffer

We have never met but from to time I have enjoyed reading your commentary. Sadly, I cannot say the same for this article.

The correct term, whIch you misquoted, from a previous article published in your very same paper, is 'vertical integration'. ThIs commonly used term refers to the integration by a business, generally through acquisition, of another company that is involved with the manufacturing or production of the same product, albeit at an earlier stage in the process.

An example of this would be a water company buying a resin producer which in turn would reduce the costs of manufacturing the plastIc bottles to package it's water.

Once one understands the process, the benefits of a food retailer buying a cannery should be obvious. I promise you that it will be abundantly obvious to the everyday shopper when they see how much more affordable certain food items can be.

As far as your thoughts on our proposed project for Andros, I think you failed to recognIze the most obvious difference between our project and those that failed in the past. It is the size, funding and scope that not only distinguishes this project, but assures a far greater chance of it's success.

It would be the equivalent of trying to construct a $1 billion bridge with $100 million. The concept may be right, the need may be there, but in the absence of reaching the critical mass needed, the project is doomed to fail.

From the tenor of your article it is clear that you neither care for, or have any respect for me. I don't really know why you feel about me the way you do, though I am sure you have your reasons.

But should you ever care to meet, I would be more than happy to share with you my hopes and thoughts, for this beautiful country. In the meantime, I will continue to strive to make a positive difference.

Joe Euteneur

Nice work on the food self-sufficiency article in the paper today. Well written and certainly well researched (from experience it seems!)

Now, let’s see if anyone pays any attention to your call for increased “planned, low-impact tourism.” I’m not holding my breath, but . . . .

larry smith

There can be no vertical integration as Schaeffer suggests on Andros because the supply chain does not exist. There's nothing to acquire - except land. I have a a hard-won cynicism that I feel bound to express as a journalist when I see such ideas being peddled to a naive public. So many have come forth with this kind of thing over the years. Throwing out ridiculous figures like billions of dollars and thousands of jobs does nothing to encourage respect.

Ol Freetown Farm

You hit the nail on the head in your last paragraph. I think that on a whole agriculture is extremely difficult here and expensive. The soil is near non existant, so you have to build up your own. The government says it supports farming but it's a load of crap. They actually hinder it for the most part. I know first hand that a lot of Bahamians do not have the time, energy, money knowledge or work ethic to put into farming. the days of back yard farms are pretty much gone. The other problem is that the land that the government alocates for farming at least on GB is in huricane flood areas. Which to me is just setting up these people for failure. Why on earth would you lease land to people that you know floods salt water to grow veggies and house animals. Storm comes and animals and crops die? It's totally unacceptable.

dave ralph

You are right-on concerning massive farming.

You should put Mike and Jennifer Lightbourn’s Abaco farm on your radar. They are young, ambitious and doing it differently. Their farm is down at Schooner Bay, but outside the development on commonage land.

The Chinese seem to be headed our way and we have EcoExpan LLC now here getting started quietly. Not sure about them, growing for Publix, Costco, etc. not the domestic market. Chinese will be growing for Hong Kong, not us. But, their pollutants will remain in our water supply.

My observation is that agriculture should be given to tourism. Let them find a successful farmer in Manitoba, North Dakota, Nova Scotia who is allergic to frostbite. Encourage him to come with his family and maybe a another family. They will need help - local. We might learn how to do it.

Bill Bardelmeier

Excellent piece. Most sensible piece on Bahamas agriculture I've seen in many years.

Taurian Ferguson

I hate your article.

I’ve always thought that there are few occupations as pure and gratifying or as necessary as being a farmer. Humans have yet to reach anything resembling equilibrium with the environment and are, by and large, consumers. Thus meeting one of the most basic demands of life, food, is as righteous a calling as priest in my book.

So I have for years, and I do mean years, followed the latest technology in farming and the macro-economic forces that drive demand for it -hypocritically, as I am a computer technician who has always lived in the city.

I long for sovereign independence from the coming power grab over water, energy, economy, and food and have fantasized countless times how I would, if given autocratic rule, make this country the envy of the region, if not the world.

I read your article. I wanted to hate it. With every paragraph I could feel my mind vociferously (just learned the word) lobbing counter-arguments at any stray fact that seemed even overtly debatable.

I wanted you to say something...well, frankly more Bahamian. I wanted you to say it can’t be done because it hasn’t been done. I wanted you to blame a political party or make it personal by simply saying what most Bahamians, myself included, know in our heart but won’t say aloud - that I’d like it done but I’m not going to be the one to do it.

I wanted something easy like blaming this new generation for being lazy or too comfortable working white collar jobs to carve a living and all that. As you probably guessed by now you didn’t, so I couldn’t - hate it that is.

The truth is that communication and logistics have shrunk our world and there’s no room for islands unto themselves anymore. It's criminally inefficient to insist upon a people mastering something they’re not suited for when there is a large well-priced specialist within our proximity.

Why artificially raise the price of imported food so that the lower quality, less numerous local product can attempt to compete? It just seems prideful. Why not instead leave it to those who can and refocus our energies on being specialists of our own?

The government has been sincerely pushing agriculture for as long as I can remember and to what end? How many millions of dollars will we squander and acres give away chasing this?

If by some miracle we can produce enough to meet demand and at prices and quality where our own people are not tempted and the local cuisine appended to deliberately make use of the local goods, we will still have to deal with the more diverse ingredients of our evolving tastes and hope that the world took a nap and stopped progressing while we worked.

And all of this just to be as well fed as we already are today! My father was offered one of those agricultural properties for lease. Pennies on the acre to keep a vegetable garden until it got “sorted out”. Even that was too much work for him. The area is a subdivision now; huge lots, rental units and Bahamian suburbia.

You didn’t even bring up how America, the standard bearer, must heavily subsidize its own agriculture industry just to keep it going. I’ve changed my mind. I think that I do hate your article. I just can’t disagree with it.

Erecia Hepburn

While I will agree that we will not and should not become fully self-sufficient there is strong merit to pursuing agriculture and agricultural development.

By your own admission capturing niche markets is something that we have the ability to do. Considering the premium paid for organic crops (where we would not have to worry about the inputs coming on the boat) that is an area we can consider. Again agritourism that you mentioned (Goodfellow) is another area that we should be focused on. Even if we get every citizen to have a backyard farm that would indeed decrease our food bill, which is a significant bill!

Countries like America (Farm Bill) , Europe and Asia ALL SUBSIDIZE their farmers, with greater subsides than we even consider! Our new representative for IICA is from the DR and he never indicated that their incentives were used as disincentives for producers. So while it is true, because I believe in comparative advantage, I don't think we should aim for full self-sufficiency but I do know that we CAN cut our import bill, through organic production, agritourism, backyard farming and better policies to promote agriculture.

I am certain when you spoke to Tim he also explained that wholesalers would purchase inferior quality product over theirs and try to ask them for the same price for their goods.

larry smith

But self-sufficiency is the stated goal of the politicos and their consultants, from time immemorial. And as you say that goal is illusory.

The point of my article is that we should not be destroying our natural environment (which is our real comparative advantage) while wasting major public resources and effort on an illusory goal.

I am all for whatever small-scale farming we can implement successfully - and your suggestions are well taken.

Yes, countries in the US and Europe and Asia do subsidise their agriculture for various reasons - but they also produce huge surpluses.

Bob Knaus

An excellent response in the comments. At the risk of turning this into a broader philosophical debate, this is an example of the difference between personal virtue and good public policy.

We admire people who plant their own gardens, fix up old cars, avoid going into debt, turn the other cheek, don't gamble, and give money to the poor. But these good individual actions do not always make good national policies. What is good for me to do may not be good for me to join in making other people do.

Erecia Hepburn

I attended the agexpo on all three days in the opening the PM stated that we could only produce in niche markets. When speaking about self-sufficiency they realize that we can not grow everything that we consume but have the understanding that we can grow more than we do now. While I am with you we need to monitor our natural resources the place where the agr school is being considered was already on farm land, there is no new destruction taking place. If we successfully implement small scale (please note this is relative, as I have work on farms in the US whose "small" is larger than our largest) we can become self sufficient even if on 1-3 crops. Food Safety and Security are real issues that we have to find ways of addressing. I am aware of several young people that are interested in the agriculture sector and this school is something they want to be a part of. So I applaud the government on this.

larry smith

Well don't forget the point that this has all been done and said many times before, without much success. And I dare say that the more cautious recent comments (as opposed to self-sufficiency) are due to my article.

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