File photo: Bahamas agriculture minister Michale Pintard is all in on home grown hemp, fruit, vegetables, chicken, and pork.

FREEPORT, Bahamas–December 28th, 2020–Minister of Agriculture Michael Pintard recently said “We also want to encourage Bahamian investors to form groups and explore these types of possibilities, such as the development of more organic chicken farms, and pig farming.

We’ve put the Government’s Abattoir and the canning factories in the Family Islands on the market for interested entrepreneurs to joint venture on, with funding assistance from the Government.  Never since the days of Hatchet Bay have there been such exciting opportunities available to those interested in farm entrepreneurship.”

The new thrust in agritourism is being driven by culturally and eco-conscious travelers who are now demanding that restaurants and hotels incorporate fresh fruit, herbs and vegetables from local farms in prepared dishes.

The deepening of agritourism linkages is already evident in the culinary sector.  Whatsapp chats are being implemented to assist farmers to enable the posting of daily produce available for purchase immediately by hoteliers in both video and photo format inclusive of pricing which the hotelier/restaurateur/consumer can immediately see and negotiate.

In restaurants, the farm-to-table concept has been introduced with tabletop tent cards promoting the farms that the establishment is partnered with and Chefs are encouraged to come out of their kitchens like celebrities and mingle with guests and talk up their partnership with local suppliers.  This has become popular with diners who revel in the stories they share and serves as a talking point and reason to recommend the eatery.

Further, second home-owners, used to a culture of supporting their local farmers at farm stands in their towns and cities, encouraged the supply of fresh produce in the adopted communities where they came to live part of the year and helped to change the Bahamian perspective of thinking everything foreign is better.

Bahamians quickly embraced this change toward healthy living and are patronizing farmer’s markets.  The discernable call-to-action by residents embracing Bahamian culture and our food supply chains has had the desired result of impacting local economies, in positive ways, in the various island communities.

Agritourism has been given its wings.  The Agritourism Committee is also charged with fostering the linkage with the hotels and is encouraging more and more farmers to benefit, be it through intermediaries or direct contracts.  Ultimately, this initiative will result in the significant reduction in the nation’s import bill and by extension its GDP.

Of perhaps even greater interest to tourists is that Pintard’s ministry has had consultations with Bahamian companies over the possibility of a hemp industry, as well as discussing possible locations for growing the crop in the country.

Agricultural production in the Bahamas focuses on four main areas: crops, poultry, livestock, and dairy. Poultry, winter vegetables, and citrus fruits are the mainstay of the agricultural sector, which is concentrated in The Abacos.

Exports consist mainly of grapefruits, limes, okra, papaya, pineapples, and avocado.  These foods tend to grow quite well here (particularly the pineapples of Eleuthera which are fabulous!). Bananas, oranges, mangoes are also popular fruits. More than 5,000 acres of agricultural land in the Bahamas are used for citrus production.

In 1993, about 14 million pounds of poultry meat was produced, valued at $15.3 million; egg production was estimated at 4.15 million dozen eggs, valued at $4.85 million; and agricultural exports were an estimated 18,794 tons.

In addition to citrus fruits, exports included honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelon and squash.

Supposedly, to ‘encourage’ local agriculture (i.e. force consumers to buy local products against their will) heavy duties are laid on many imported goods that compete with inefficient, low quality, over-priced local products, or cheaper foreign goods are banned.

Ninety percent of the agricultural land in The Bahamas is government-owned and falls under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries.

The government has instituted a policy to utilize these lands to aid in the growth of the economy and foster less dependence on the tourism sector.

The Ministry of Agriculture (Incorporation) Act of 1993 gives the Minister of Agriculture authority to hold, lease, and dispose of agricultural land, to enter into contracts, and to sue and be sued.

The Minister does not have the power to sell agricultural land, but is authorized to lease land for periods up to two consecutive 21-year periods.