THE government is allocating more than $6 million to support its food security initiatives, according to Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Clay Sweeting.
Mr Sweeting told the House of Assembly that more than $27 million had been budgeted for his ministry for the coming financial year and also detailed how the funds will be spent across his various departments.
Of the $27 million allocated, he said a large portion will go to grants to several government agencies, while adding that more than $6 million has been budgeted to boost the country’s food security.
“Madam President, for the 2022/2023 budget with respect to recurrent expenditures, my ministry has been proposed an allocation of $27,498,086.00 which includes grants to BAIC (Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation) 5,000,000, $00; BAMSI (Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute), $6,476,088.00, an increase of $250,000. This demonstrates our commitment to education in agriculture and marine resources,” Mr. Sweeting said in his budget communication.
“We can’t say we are committed to food security, and we don’t translate that into educating young people and re-educating people who want to get into agriculture. Additionally, BAHFSA (Bahamas Agricultural Food Safety Authority) will receive $504,000. For the Department of Agriculture $5,522,159 has been proposed and for the Department of Marine Resources $2,802,091 and the Department of Local Government $26,200,058.00.
“Madam President, the proposed capital allocation is $4,766,446.00 which includes: food security capital development of $1,000,000.00, other capital initiatives include: building of two slaughterhouses, one in New Providence (replacement) and one in Eleuthera (and) the construction of additional offices. – Department of Marine Resources, purchase of a ship – Andros, and construction of an administrative building at the GRAC.
Regarding food security, the minister added, “$6,149,000.00 is proposed to my department to support our initiatives and projects related to the government’s food security program.”
He also disclosed that about $500,000 will be given in direct support to farmers, adding that residents can also expect to receive indirect aid from the Davis administration.
“There will be duty exemptions for farmers and fishermen on pieces of equipment,” he added. “For example, to buy a Caterpillar fuel pump kit costs $7,000 in the United States, to import it a farmer/fisherman will have to pay 45% customs duty and 10% VAT. The farmer/fisherman would pay $3,850 in duty and VAT bringing the value of the part to $10,850 to repair his equipment.
“This Davis/Cooper administration realizes that once again, a holistic approach must be taken in order to have a real tangible effect on food security and lower production costs for farmers and fishers. This duty free initiative will now be a direct saving to the farmer and the imported portion will only cost $7,700.00.
“This administration is committed to eliminating the cost of duty on all these parts for repairs, since farmers and fishers already have duty-free concessions for the initial purchase of equipment and vehicles for their businesses, it’s an added bonus and a real time saver for these hard working men and women who will move the country forward.
He also revealed the planned concessions for poultry farmers, noting that the industry is important, given the high food costs in the country.
“We believe that low-hanging fruit such as poultry can provide an almost immediate catalyst to boost food production in the country,” said the MP for Eleuthera Central and South.
“We have a plan, detailed in part in the budget, to attract the best technologies and processes to develop a large-scale poultry production operation. This includes a series of concessions that will be available. These concessions include land concessions (the BAIC and the Ministry of Agriculture have thousands of acres for agricultural development) as well as concessions on electricity tariffs to producers and direct cash grants, as shown in this budget, to support poultry farmers and producers.
“In reality, the time frame for this sector of the economy to grow will take another six to twelve months to see its full potential realised. In the meantime, the Prime Minister, in his wisdom, has also provided for the reduction of duties on many many food products, including poultry and eggs, and we sincerely hope that these savings as described in the budget will be passed on to consumers.