Govt. to spend $1.7 million on food security plan

Govt. to spend $1.7 million on food security plan
Agriculture and Marine resources minister Michael Pintard

Pintard says country can become self-sufficient in eggs

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard today unveiled the government’s agriculture and marine resources emergency food production plan as part of its effort to strengthen food and nutrition security in the country amid the COVID-19 crisis.

According to Pintard, the government will undertake several initiatives to help local producers.

Some of the initiatives the government is looking to roll-out include provision of farm inputs; land clearing initiative; reestablishing the backyard gardening initiative; and making hydroponic systems and shade/greenhouses available to a range of producers including young farmers and backyard gardeners.

Pintard also told Parliament that The Bahamas can become self sufficient in egg production.

The current plan calls for the purchase of 343 hydroponic systems at a cost of $343,00; 10,000 backyard gardening kits at a cost of $240,000; and for the introduction of a program to intensify egg production estimated at $376,217.

“This measure requires $1,626,939.70 million dollars,” said Pintard.

The plan reflects the full participation of the Bahamas Agriculture and Industrial Corporation (BAIC), The Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI and the Bahamas Agricultural Health and Food Safety Authority (BASHSFA).

It is based on the ‘Food Drum’ produced by the Ministry of Health, which indicates the dietary intake of the major food groups.

Pintard said: “There are seven main groups: vegetables, fruit, grains/starchy vegetables, meat/dairy, fats, sugars and sweeteners and legumes/ peas and beans. Additionally, the MAMR has identified fourteen sensitive product’s. These products were subject to import restrictions based on domestic production and due to their importance to the incomes of farmers, there are efforts to increase the production of these products.

“The plan also used the most readily available information on the current distribution of the population which was the 2017 Election Boundary Report.

“The report was used to determine the annual food needs of the population if there is a closure of the border for imports. An estimate of the volume of food needed is outlined in Annex I.”

Pintard said that in order to accelerate food production, the focus needs to be on strengthening the production systems of existing farmers.

He said this can be done through: the provision of inputs; making hydroponic systems and shade/greenhouses available to a range of producers including young farmers and backyard gardeners; and establishing layer production units to targeted producers in all communities that would provide a source of protein.

Other measures include re-establishing the backyard gardening program; supporting the Food Technology and Safety Laboratory to provide food processing training and advice on post-harvest storage of targeted crops; strengthening the Feed Mill to provide livestock feed;  requesting the Ministry of Health’s advice on nutritional value on targeted agricultural commodities, and calculating guaranteed prices and cost for targeted commodities.

Pintard noted that his ministry intends to assist farmers across the country by providing clearing of farm land beginning first in those islands devastated by Hurricane Dorian (Abaco and Grand Bahama).

“We have plans to assist nineteen in Grand Bahama and forty on Abaco at a total cost of some four hundred and seventy-nine thousand six hundred dollars. The remaining funds allocated for this initiated will be shared with the other farmers throughout the Bahama,” said Pintard.

He also noted that after consultation with industry stakeholders, several issues related to the fishing sector arose.It was noted that while there may be a run on canned fisheries products such as tuna, mackerel, sardine, as well as luxury fishery products such as salmon and cod in food stores, fresh and frozen local fish will still be available to Bahamians and that traditionally and culturally, many Bahamians consume fish during certain times of the year.

“Additionally, while fish may be available to residents its price may be prohibitive, which is and has been the view of consumers over the years mainly in New Providence. It is also my ministry’s intention to introduce a Fishers Market similar to that of the Farmer Market,” said Pintard.