IICA’s Bahamas representative, Dr Marikis Alvarez (left), farmer Kirk Deleveaux, Edison Key (centre) and assistant general manager for agriculture, Arnold Dorsett (BIS Photo)
The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture is continuing its push for agricultural development in the Caribbean, with the Bahamas the latest island to get help.
The IICA is encouraging Bahamians to get involved in organic farming, including a move to get more young Bahamians considering fruit tree propagation as a career path.
“As people are becoming increasingly conscious about the quality of the food they eat, the demand for organic products is growing,” said Dr Marikis Alvarez, the IICA’s Bahamas representative. “People are seeking out these kinds of fruits and vegetables because of the absence of the use of pesticides on them. They also fetch a higher price — people are willing to pay for them.”
The Caribbean has seen a recent movement to spur more farming, and one of its centers is the North Andros Agro-Industrial Park, which is one of the centers of farming development in the Bahamas. Edison Key, the executive chairman of the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC), said he was hoping to attract the College of the Bahamas to use the facility as part of its practical activities.
“In recent years, certified organic farming has become one of the world’s most dynamic export activities,” the IICA said in its Hemipsheric Organic Agriculture Programme report. “This alternative method of production is making significant contributions to rural economies, the environment and the social well-being of the farmers who practice it.”
Alvarez said the Bahamas had a “huge potential” for organic farming given the size of its imports.
“The Bahamas is a net importing country, and thus, from a food security perspective, that is an area that definitely needs tightening,” he said. “When you look at the value chain in agriculture production, it creates a lot of labour and catalyzes more industries — trucking, storage, grading, packaging and distribution. When you add all these factors in the value chain, agriculture indeed becomes a great stimulant in most economies.”
Key said the BAIC had plans to propagate thousands of fruit trees for distribution throughout the island, having purchased 1,500 assorted trees from a Florida nursery. Last month, BAIC began distributing 5,000 tissue-cultured sweet cayenne pineapple slips throughout the country for a similar purpose.
“This is the future of food security for the country,” Key said.
–Bahamas Information Service