Reducing food import, 25 percent by 2025 

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The 17th Caribbean Week of Agriculture officially wrapped up after a week of activities. The event was held at SuperClubs Breezes Resort and Spa.  It officially opened October 10. Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Hon. Philip Davis and Minister of Agriculture & Marine Resources, the Hon. Jomo Campbell addressed the conclave which featured delegates from throughout the Caribbean.

Prime Minister Davis welcomed the delegates and said that meetings such as these provided a great opportunity for The Bahamas in its quest to reach food security.

“Food security is a very important focus for my government as we try to find ways to be more self-sustainable. So I welcome forums such as these, which provide an opportunity for discussions to be held on how we can find innovative and creative ways to meet this objective,” said Mr. Davis.

Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources, the Hon. Jomo Campbell also welcomed the delegates and said that he was ‘honored’ to address the gathering.

“Welcome to my brothers and sisters throughout the Caribbean to discuss a central issue to us all — food security,” said Minister Campbell. “Your presence signals that you are committed to making our region more food secure and have intentions on building upon our successes while also coming up with new strategies on how to achieve this loftier goal.”

Minister said that it was ‘significant’ that the conference was being held during the country’s 50th independence anniversary and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of CARICOM.

“There’s no denying that we face numerous challenges. Climate change continues to be a crucial threat to the world’s agriculture sector and unpredictable financial conditions are often passed down to consumers, however, the theme for this year’s Caribbean week of Agriculture, ‘Accelerating Vision 25 by 2025’ cultivates hope that we can and will overcome these obstacles together. I believe that a common goal that we must share is a sustainable strategy to empower our farmers to grow more food. Through our efforts, it is possible to make real and steady progress to reduce our imports by 25 percent by 2025.”

He said that ‘Vision 25 by 2025’ sets forth a comprehensive roadmap for transforming  Caribbean Agriculture into a thriving, innovative and resilient industry. “It envisions a future where our food systems are not only able to withstand external shocks but also contribute to economic growth, social development and environmental sustainability of our nations.”

He said that one of the key pillars of Vision 25 by 2025 is the promotion of sustainable farming practices. “There’s no denying that we’re seeing more severe storms and more extreme high temperatures. And so we must prepare today for tomorrow’s threats. We are in need of new, out-of-the-box thinking and solutions. It will take unprecedented efforts on our part. But together, we can brainstorm sustainable strategies to transform our food systems. We can utilize strategies such as precision agriculture techniques, remote sensing technologies and data analytics so that we can optimize resource utilization and improve crop yield, all while minimizing environmental impact. Embracing these innovations will not only increase our productivity but also position our farmers as leaders in the global marketplace.”

The Minister said, however, that in order to meet the objectives of Vision 25, the pressing issue of reducing dependence on imports is critical.

“The Bahamas’ import bill continues to hover around 90 percent — a challenge shared by many Caribbean countries, however, by diversifying our agricultural production and promoting the cultivation of nutritious, locally-grown crops, we can enhance our food security, improve public health and stimulate economic growth within our region.”

Mr. Campbell said that the youth should also be provided with opportunities to contribute to and improve the nation with diverse and fresh perspectives to assist in meeting objectives.

“The Caribbean holds immense potential in agriculture. This is why it is crucial that we harness this potential and explore innovative ways to ensure sustainable growth in our sector,” he said. “This week provides us with a unique opportunity to collaborate, share knowledge and best practices that will contribute to the advancement of agriculture in our region.”

On Thursday, a panel discussion on Cannabis was held. Speakers included the Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources, Hon. Jomo Campbell;  Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Rural Transformation, Industry and Labour, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Hon. Sabato Caesar; Mr. Deon Gibson, Consultant in the Department of Agriculture; and Ms. Daenia Ashpole. 

By BETTY VEDRINE/ Bahamas Information Services

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