BAMSI stands as ‘saving grace’ of industry

Gov’t. support drives growth, development of agriculture sector

The Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI), along with similar agencies, will stand as the ‘saving grace’ of an agriculture sector in desperate need of capacity building, a senior executive from BAMSI said earlier this week.

A critical review and analysis of the sector’s historical position and its future growth projections clearly show that an increase in trained personnel, wider access to improved research, cutting-edge technological advancements, and improvements to extension/support services to farmers and other producers are key in transforming an industry and redirecting its path toward steady growth.

These comments came on the heels of media reports that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is suggesting the government reduce its fiscal ties both to the industry and agencies designed to support it.

General Manager and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BAMSI Alaasis Braynen said, “The Bahamas government’s financial intervention to BAMSI and other such agencies is crucial to realizing the positive expansion of the industry as seen in a number of critical protocols; an increase in qualified technicians and industry experts, increased engagement in local research and technological advancements, greater access for farmers to the findings, and improved support to local producers through training, seminars, etc.

“Without such intervention and financial support by the government, with all things remaining status quo, there will be no stopping the ultimate and total collapse of the industry. This will increase the overall risk of the economy of the Bahamas due to the lack of diversification.”

Braynen pointed out that BAMSI, in particular, has churned out qualified graduates who are now actively involved in the agriculture sector. He said some are producers – farmers, extension officers etc., and others are situated within the value chain between production to sales. They are essential for the personnel growth within these industries. The Research/Tutorial Farm at BAMSI focuses on producing fruits/vegetables throughout the year and introducing varieties best suited for this climate which in turn increases the yields, and from a financial perspective, creates a surge in net returns for Bahamian farmers.

According to Braynen, the organization is now stretched throughout the archipelago, with offices in Eleuthera, South Andros, Mayaguana, Long Island and Exuma, to link the needs of the farmer and the help they need for best practice results.

In contrast to the work of BAMSI and other public agencies, the private sector is by necessity profit driven.

“To suggest the private sector would willingly get involved in increasing the number of technically trained individuals without a selfish financial benefit is wishful thinking. To seriously believe it will sink money into improving technology/research which may not improve their bottom line or that they will fund an extension service organization of which they do not directly benefit, is an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theory,” Braynen said.

While he acknowledged that agriculture’s contribution to the GDP is relatively small, he argued the sector was vital for economic diversification which must be bolstered to further reduce the risk of a singular economy.

Braynen said because the financial support is being used to assist an industry which is conditionally critical, the percentage to gross farm receipts is noteworthy.

“Pricing structures from financial giants like the United States or neighbouring countries which are totally agrarian creates unrealistic market prices in the Bahamas. Once the foundational support is in place and economies of scale begin to take hold, not just more favourable pricing adjustments will be made but the benefits and access to healthier foods will broaden.

“Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and other non-communicable diseases are directly killing this nation because of the food we eat. We presently know not what our bodies consume and where there is an unknown there lies the risk.”

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