Coronavirus: Farmers raise food security concerns

Coronavirus: Farmers raise food security concerns
Eleuthera pineapple farm. (FILE PHOTO)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Bahamian farmers are ‘ready and willing’ to ensure food security in this nation, according to Farmers United Association (FUA) Caron Shepherd.

Shepherd told Eyewitness News that adequate investment in the sector could over the years could have helped buffer against any likely food shortages as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The virus outbreak has led to massive disruptions in the global supply chain and so called ‘panic buying’, with consumers stocking up on food, water and medicine.

Shepherd said the country lacks the resources to properly sustain itself in the event it is shut off from necessary imports for a prolonged period.

“I don’t want to say I told you so,” Shepherd said.

“Since 2016 we have been agitating the government to support the farmers and help them get themselves back on their feet. The concern always was that in the event something should happen and the gates are closed coming into The Bahamas.

“We have farmers who are ready willing and able to produce what we need, take it to market and export.”

Shepherd continued: “The potential is so vast that from 2016 when we agitated for the $60 million in funding to get the farmers back on their feet from Hurricane Matthew would have put us in a position now where we wouldn’t have to be so concerned about the Coronavirus. We would have been in a better position from a stand point of food sufficiency.

“The farmers have been trying to do what they can with the limited resources they have and have been doing a great job. We have been agitating and agitating and there is only so much we can do,” she said.

She added: “We don’t have enough food to sustain ourselves for more than three weeks and it’s a very sad state to be in.”

According to Shepherd, greater emphasis has been placed on getting local farmers the necessary certifications.

“We have courses that will run from April to December for farmers to get certified in whatever they want to get certified in and we are in conjunction with Convoy of Hope,” she said.

“We also have the Israel Coalition which is prepared to help our farmers get certified so their will be no excuses down the road about the products of Bahamian farmers. We have farmers now growing grade A products.

“We are working on getting our farmers certified and utilizing new farming technologies.”