Minister Sweeting travels to UN FAO meeting in Ecuador

Agriculture Minister Hon. Clay Sweeting

Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs Hon. Clay Sweeting is leading a delegation of five persons to Ecuador for the United National Food and Agriculture (FAO) 37th regional conference of Latin America and the Caribbean. The aim of the conference is to enhance food security initiatives throughout the region.

“During the first two-day sessions, we will have representatives from the Ministry speak to global technical experts on strategies and practices that can be adopted in The Bahamas to benefit the agriculture and marine sectors and another two days where Regional Ministers will share successful country experiences that will benefit the region. At the end of the week, I will have a closed bilateral meeting with the Director-General, Qu Dongyu, to discuss different areas of Agriculture and Marine Resources,” Minister Sweeting said.

“I expect the main topics to be about climate resilient and sustainable agrifood systems and how we can come together as a sector to meet the demand for food security. FAO and supporting partners are working towards transforming the food system to strengthen local food production through improved value chains to reduce food imports, I am confident that during this week we are going to be discussing how we can achieve this.”

The Minister said that officials have been in discussions with the FAO, who has been a valuable partner.

“We’ve had discussions with the FAO on how we can grow the Agricultural sector. They’ve also assisted with hurricane victims in Grand Bahama and Abaco. In the marine sector, they’ve held workshops for fish pots to assist fishermen with getting back on their feet again. They’ve also provided training with apparatus and how they can – as fishermen- use their own products. They are putting together a plan so that we can find ways to feed ourselves not just by modernizing but by also working with farmers through an Agribusiness Incubator to enhance their business skills and increase market linkages, through the National School Feeding Project.”

Minister Sweeting noted that The Bahamas is working to produce a country strategic framework for food production from 2022-2026 that is linked to priorities of the Government.

“The agenda would be to transform the food sector to being sustainable and resilient to climate and economic shocks. We look forward to working with them and they are working along with other countries because that’s how we can beat this food insecurity that we all are facing,” he said.

He added that the Ministry is looking for ways to expand its assistance to farmers. “We are looking to enhance government’s current assistance to farmers. We also understand that there are farmers that are producing an excessive amount of produce. So, to create added
value, we have created some production and food kitchens across the Family Islands to ensure that produce that might have been wasted in previous years will now have added value in jams and jellies or whatever they feel can create a new part of the industry,”Minister Sweeting explained.

“There is a lot of potential in the Ministry and a lot of untapped value and we are hoping that the ministry can facilitate and be the driver of this. The wholesalers are looking for people that are innovative and they are able to transform the industry in various ways. I have spoken to many wholesalers, and they are ready to support, we just have to – as Bahamians, farmers and other persons in the sector- capitalize on all that’s out there.”