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Bahamas Food Supply: Dr. Lea Percentie (Nassau Guardian)
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Page 1 of 1Total of 2 messages
Posted by:May 19th 2008, 09:38:08 am
HeilPeople have been trying to beef up the agricultural industry back to it's former glory for years, except the argument used to be "what if tourism fails? What will we have to fall back on?"

I think this is just another warning that people won't pay attention to.

Even if we do salvage and rebuild that industry, it'll only be a matter of time before we start exporting crops to Emerica™ , leaving Bahamians hungry.
Posted by:May 8th 2008, 05:33:16 pm
Fig Tree News TeamBahamas' food supply

Dear Editor,

The world's population is exploding at an exponential rate, now at over 6.6 billion people on the planet. By the year 2050, in just another 42 years, at the current rate the world's population is expected to be 10 billion. Even at the current rate the food supply to feed the world has been falling behind the demand. World Food Aid Agencies have reported that as much as 35,000 people, many of them children die every day from some pathology resulting from not enough food to eat. This figure does not include those who die from other diseases due to unsanitary conditions and contaminated water supply.

There are a number of factors that affect the world's food production. Wars, pollution, weather (especially with global warming), depletion of natural food stocks, decreased amount of available land for farming, etc. have all negatively impacted the world's food production. Unless the world can produce more food to accommodate the growing population, the Rules of Natural Selection according to Charles Darwin, "Only the fittest of the fittest will survive!" In other words, the rich and developed countries will prosper. The poor and third world countries will simply whither on the vine!

The business and politics of the world has also affected food production. Despite the obvious demand for food, in some quarters food will only be produced if there is a profit involved. Not only that but to ensure that food production remains profitable, the prices are controlled to the extent that large quantities of food are dumped rather than sold at a lower price.

Furthermore, some food is now being produced not as food to be consumed, but as substitutes for fuel. This is far more profitable to the food producer than selling the food as food. It is also becoming more costly to produce/pro-cess/market food as the price of fuel in recent times has dramatically increased. Not only has this directly impacted the cost of food production, but in the processing and transport to the market.

One can just imagine the increase in cost in fruits and vegetables that are grown in Chile, South Africa and California by the time it sits on the dinner table in The Bahamas! For some countries these items may be considered luxury items and will not concern them. Their interest would be in the basic staples such as rice, wheat, corn, flour, sugar, etc., where even the slightest increase in these items could wreak havoc in impoverished nations. Some of these basic items have almost doubled in cost just over the past year. The result has been widespread looting and food riots all over the world.

However, the million dollar question is, how well is The Bahamas holding up in these rough times? The Honourable Larry Cartwright (a farmer himself) has already weighed in on this matter when he released a statement on the Bahamas Food Security. He discussed contingency plans for The Bahamas in case of a food crisis.

We can all recall the days shortly after the 911 attacks what could happen should shipping to The Bahamas be interrupted. The Bahamas is now so dependent on food imports that there will be a problem if shipping to The Bahamas is affected even just for a few days. For much longer than that it will be disastrous! Undoubtedly, for its own national preservation, The Bahamas must therefore become more self-sufficient in the area of food production.

In the old days, The Bahamas was far less dependent on food imports as it is today. As a boy growing up in Acklins, my family had the same experiences as most. Every family had a field where they grew their basic crops. Usually, the "slash and burn" technique was sufficient to sustain the average family, even though we had no electricity and so we could not freeze or refrigerate our produce. This distant island was served by a weekly mail boat service out of Nassau. But, when the mail boat went on dry dock, there were weeks of no service to the island. The bottom line is that if we didn't grow it or catch it, we simply didn't eat it.

Despite the hardship, I cannot remember a time when we went short or had to go hungry simply because we didn't have any food. The hard work of farming and fishing didn't hurt anyone.

One sad historical footnote for The Bahamas would be the decline of the Bahamian farm after the urbanization from modernization. The city folks just aren't into farming. They believe that everything must be imported from another land and so there is no point in farming locally. "Switcha" was replaced with tonic water and lemon and "peas and grits" was replaced with "cereal." Despite the government's call to "buy Baham-ian," farming in The Bahamas was a dying industry. Added to the burden of food demand in The Bahamas is the fact that The Bahamas hosts about five million tourists a year, all of whom must be fed.

Since the good old days when the Bahamian people worked the land, The Bahamas could more or less survive a global food crisis without too much interruption. The ability to develop large farms has not been too successful in the long run. For years the Hatchet Bay Plantation was able to provide most of The Bahamas with eggs, milk, ice cream, chickens, etc. Unfortunately for the past couple of decades, it has been dormant and inactive. BARTAD in North Andros had the same fate. Other large farms were not sustainable or fell victim to disease such as the Harmon farm in Abaco and chicken farms in Nassau.

There has been some success to some extent with farms that export their product. This is a good idea but some of these farms, for example the ones that were in Freeport, had Customs duty levied against them to ship their produce to other parts of The Bahamas. It made no sense that goods produced in The Bahamas were shipped abroad and then re-imported back into The Bahamas.

The government of The Bahamas must ensure that adequate food supplies will be available in the time of crisis. No one can predict when there will be a catastrophic event such as an act of terrorism, war or a natural event. What will happen should The Bahamas be shut off from the rest of the world? That will not be the time to start planting, as it will take some time to harvest.

In the past The Bahamas has had a protective policy with a high tariff on imports. The disadvantage of this was that it made some of the food so incredibly expensive. Now that food prices have gone sky high, maybe now is the time for Bahamians to once again become more aggressive when it comes to farming!

Yours sincerely,
Dr. Leatendore Percentie

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