Prime Minister Philip Davis’s Remarks at the Opening Ceremony of Agri-Business Expo 2024

Today, at Agri-Business Expo 2024, we are taking critical steps to promote agriculture and fisheries as meaningful and lucrative opportunities for Bahamians.

The Bahamas has many exciting developments on the horizon like the 60-million-dollar Blue IDB loan targeting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in the blue economy. We have the Bahamas Development Bank and Food and Agriculture Organisation’s partnership to empower women entrepreneurs in agriculture, creative industries, and tourism – a pilot that will establish best practices for the entire region. 

We have BAMSI’s exploration of strawberries as a viable local crop, which can open the door to wide- scale strawberry farming as a viable opportunity. 

And we have more grants and loans going out to agriculture and fisheries-based businesses.

The Agriculture and Fisheries sectors are on the rise, as more Bahamians tap into the business potential of these emerging industries. 

Several years ago, with the exception of a few pioneering Bahamians, there was far too little focus placed on food production as a pathway to entrepreneurial success. But now, many Bahamians are seeing the vast potential.

In many ways, this is also a throwback to years past.

There was a time in our history when both subsistence and commercial farming were not just commonplace, they were necessities. From our very early days as a colony and a nation, agriculture was a part of Bahamian culture.

However, with the passage of time, climate and soil-related difficulties, a lack of strategic development and research over the years, and the modernisation of transportation technology and global supply chains, we have come to increasingly rely on imports.

But the times are changing.
It is no secret that there is vast untapped potential in our agricultural sector. Egg production and poultry farming alone represent million-dollar opportunities that local farmers are keen to take advantage of.

We all recognise the economic advantages of developing agriculture. Passionate Bahamians have evangelized for years about the need to feed ourselves and the many ways we will benefit.

We can lower the food import bill, keeping more money in the country. We can bring more money into the economy through exports. We can lower the cost of food products at the grocery store. And we can provide expanded access to healthy, fresh produce and animal products grown right here in The Bahamas to promote healthier diets.

I believe this is a future everyone gathered here today would like to see realised. It is a future that every Bahamian would like to see us make real progress toward.

And there is no single stakeholder better positioned to facilitate our advancement toward agricultural growth than the government.

My administration has committed to reducing the food import bill by 25% by 2025. 

To do that, we need to ensure that our packing houses and abattoirs are meeting the needs of local farmers, which we are actively working on.

We committed to providing more training, technical support, and capital funding for agribusiness entrepreneurs and farmers, which we have started doing through the Small Business Development Centre’s farming-specific grants, but there is a need to do even more.

BAMSI has committed to do more, as well, in the education and development of our farmers and the provision of support through the sharing of technology, research, and best practices.

Innovative solutions like this administration’s Golden Yolk Initiative are good first steps that need to be truly broadened and expanded to include more stakeholders so we can take over key markets like egg production.

And we’re not even talking about fisheries yet.

The Bahamas is home to mangrove systems that act as fish spawning grounds for the entire region. The word “sea” is literally a part of our country’s name. There is no reason why the “islands of shallow seas” cannot dominate the regional market through effective management of our natural marine resources, and cultivation of new businesses within the industry.

This government is 100% locked in on the potential to grow agriculture and fisheries into central pillars of our economy.

There is no single stakeholder better positioned to facilitate advancement in agriculture than the government. And we will do our part.

But the ones who will actually plant the seeds, hatch the eggs, harvest the vegetables, and reel in the fish are the local farmers and fishers. The people are the ones who will develop this industry through enterprise, expertise, and innovation.

The government’s job is simply to help our pioneering entrepreneurs within this sector to succeed.

The return of Agri Expo after five years couldn’t be more timely. It is emblematic of our renewed focus on agriculture.

At this event, we will connect farmers with markets to help them expand their businesses. We will help those who manufacture or create related products to find customers. And we will support enterprising Bahamians in taking their passion for agriculture and fisheries to the next level as entrepreneurs.

As we scale up our agricultural ambitions, it is only right that Bahamians are the primary beneficiaries. After all, it can only be said that we are “feeding ourselves,” if it is predominantly Bahamians who own the farms, the boats, and the factories that are doing the feeding.

I hope that the return of this Expo truly lives up to its promise to reawaken and reinvigorate the appetite for agriculture and fisheries in this country as a viable and profitable pathway for entrepreneurship and national development.

This is a great time to get in on the ground floor of an industry that is primed for growth.

This event’s theme, “Agriculture is Bahamian Culture” speaks to our past, it speaks to the ambitious plans that are currently underway, and it speaks to a bright future for agriculture and fisheries in The Bahamas.

I thank you for inviting me to be here with you today. And I look forward to all the exciting ways that our Bahamian farmers, fishers, and agribusiness entrepreneurs will drive progress within our nation.