Local wholesalers, who currently import certain produce items from abroad, have agreed to sell only Bahamian grown produce to their customers as long as the items are of a good quality, according to the agriculture minister.
However, Renward Wells, minister of agriculture and marine resources said, wholesalers will still be able to import the items which Bahamian farmers cannot produce.
“We met with our wholesalers on the 25th of January of this year, and they have agreed that in regards to Bahamian products, as long as they are available, that the wholesalers would purchase these from the farmers, and would seek to meet whatever other needs they have from foreign sources,” the minister said.
The wholesalers present at the meeting, the minister said, were Milo Butler Distributors, AML Foods Limited, Bahamas Food Services (BFS), Budget Foods and Meats, Abaco Markets, Super Value Food Stores and Gold Cay Importers.
Additionally, the wholesalers agreed to provide a demand list, week by week, for Bahamian agricultural products.
“They will let us know what they need and we will seek to work with the farmers and the fishermen in the country, to supply them with that which they need.”
He said his ministry is aiming to position the Bahamas to produce a regular supply of “homegrown and home raised” foods, in an effort to build on this country’s food security.
“… As the minister of agriculture and marine resources, I am committed to ensuring that every bit of food grown in The Bahamas, as long as it is quality product, that it will make the market, that it will make the table for the Bahamian individual, the Bahamian consumer, as well as visitors alike,” he said.
“I have demonstrated my commitment and I want the Bahamian people to hear that this government [is] dedicated and shown itself true with our commitment with the recent ban that we placed on the imports of tomatoes and green peppers because at that time, the Bahamian farming community was more than able to supply all of the green peppers and all of the tomatoes in country, and they have been able to do that, and they will be able to do it up until June this year. The farmers themselves have been signing our praise in that regard.”
Becoming self-sufficient, when it comes to feeding the Bahamian citizenry, will not happen overnight, the minister said.
He further explained that the large food import bill which is ministry seeks to reduce, will take time.
“It will take more than a few years at best, but we will get it done,” he said.
“In the meantime, that which we do not grow, we will seek to get from trading partners at a lesser cost while meeting the phytosanitary requirements of the Bahamas and the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code for transportation.”
The minister also declared that the Minnis administration will not allow the import of any products that will disadvantage local farmers.