NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard yesterday announced the ministry will partner with the Access Accelerator Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) to support farming and fishing projects throughout The Bahamas.
“This collaboration will be the first of many as my ministry seeks to leverage various opportunities for farmers and fishers,” Pintard said during a press conference at the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources.
“This particular grant window is open to new and existing businesses in the agricultural and fisheries industries.”
Pintard noted that such businesses include projects engaged in fishing for any marine resource for the purpose of subsequent sale or processing and agricultural enterprises including forestry, horticulture and the use of land for the purpose of husbandry, the keeping or breeding of livestock, poultry or bees, the cultivation or processing of fruit, vegetables and the like and the establishment of grasslands.
“We will also support the creation of new technologies that accelerate growth in our sector,” he said.
Pintard explained that the government now requires that all entities that import fresh and processed food must first purchase 40 percent of those items from Bahamian producers.
He continued: “We recognize that there are gaps along the supply chain that hinder some of our producers from achieving 40 percent sales to food stores, restaurants and hotels or providing 75 percent of the foods purchase by government entities.
“Therefore, this collaboration and our partnership with other financial service entities would enable us to fund businesses that plug gaps along the supply chain.”
The ministry’s goal is to foster Bahamian ownership and participation in the Agricultural and Fisheries sector.
The program has been designed to simply give more agri-entrepreneurs and fishers access to capital and get them in business.
Pintard said: “We must accomplish our objectives and take decisive and bold steps toward food security. We will rebuild this economy and agriculture and marine resources will play a pivotal role in that rebuild. This program in the first instance has $5 million set aside for fishing and agri-business funding.
“These funds will be in the form of grants as follows: micro — $10,000 and under; small — $10,001 to $25,000; and medium — $25,001 to $50,000.”
He added that large agricultural projects (over $50,000) will also be eligible for funding in the form of loans and equity financing.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources has compiled an expansive training curriculum to aid the applicants, with its partners the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA).
The curriculum includes access to virtual sessions on small ruminants, poultry, good agriculture practices, composting as a business and food processing.
Pintard added that farmers and fishers will also benefit from educational resources from the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N., Commonwealth of Learning — Canada and other institutions.