ERC recommends “ambitious” 8-fold agriculture and fisheries GDP output

ERC recommends “ambitious” 8-fold agriculture and fisheries GDP output

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Economic Recovery Committee (ERC) has recommended that the government pursue the “ambitious goal” of increasing the agriculture and fisheries sector’s contribution to GDP eight-fold over the next decade.

According to the ERC’s executive summary report, this would mean increasing its yield from $150 million per year or 1.5 percent of GDP) to a minimum of $1.2 billion or 10 percent by following through on targeted public and private investments in these sectors.

“The output of the Agriculture and Fisheries sector has historically underperformed, contributing only 1.5 percent to GDP, on average, since 1984,” it read.

“For years, the country has had the ambition to increase the contribution of agriculture and fisheries. However, that ambition needs to be developed into a focused and articulated strategy with set objectives, targets, and milestones. The ERC maintains that a cornerstone of economic sustainability, reliability, and dynamism is the recognition that food security is a key component of national security.

“In addition to this, the ERC also believes that policymakers must take bold steps to ensure that the country is capable of producing a basket of goods which, at a minimum, allows citizens access to essential goods,” the ERC said, adding that productivity within these sectors could be much higher if certain foundational issues are addressed.

By addressing these issues, the ERC noted that the likely effect would be narrowing the trade deficit, creating jobs, and supporting the Government’s policy objectives in respect of economic diversification.

The ERC has recommended the establishment and publication of key performance indicators around the output of the agriculture and fisheries sector as measured by its proportionate contribution to GDP.

“The ERC proposes a target of no less than 10 percent of annual GDP output within 10 years. This would increase the sector’s economic value from $150 million per year to approximately $1.2 billion per year, representing an eight-fold increase in the contribution to the economy,” the ERC noted.

It added that to meet this objective, the government should work with stakeholders in the sector to establish a core basket of crops, livestock and seafood products that are best suited for Bahamian commercial cultivation and production.

“The incentives and public sector support should align primarily with the agreed basket of items. Once the core basket of items has been determined, the government must establish, publish and monitor output appropriately,” the committee said.

It has also recommended accelerating the lease of crown land through the Sovereign Wealth Fund or other partnership arrangements to ensure stable rights of tenure on land for farmers.

“These arrangements could include the SWF or other vehicles providing land as an equity stake in the venture. In other words, the government should seek a stake in the proposed farming ventures in exchange for the leasing of crown land. Lease arrangements should also be conditional and measured against certain key performance indicators and performance standards,” the committee said.

The committee has also recommended the coordination of a strategic approach to “improve Bahamian farmers’ access to ‘production credit’ via partial or whole guarantees.”

“This should be done in conjunction with the major financing bodies in the country for example the SBDC, Bahamas Development Bank, Commercial Banks, Private Investment Funds, IFIs, etc.), and should reflect the existing SBDC guarantee structure. This form of credit is vital for producers to facilitate land preparation, input supplies, transport, and market access to the private sector,” the ERC said.