Ladies and Gentlemen Good Afternoon.
It’s been a fascinating morning touring this ’80 Acres 70K Farm’ here in Hamilton.
Congratulations to the young Bahamians behind Eeden Farms, and their partners, for realising their vision of food security and sustainability thus far.
And thank you for inviting me to witness first-hand the model of how you propose to grow and develop.
This tour has been truly enlightening.
So much of what you are doing sits across our New Day Agenda.
Even as our new Administration is still wrestling with the twin crises of Covid-19 and the severely-challenged economy which we inherited, at the same time, we need to prioritize our efforts to grow the size of the economy and diversify our sources of revenue.
Our commitment to the Green Economy is central to this, and Eeden Farms seems well-positioned to play an active role.
Without taking too much of your time today, I’d like to make some brief observations which I think augur well for the success of your venture, and propose some thoughts as to how our New Day policy framework can support you.
The most striking feature from what I’ve seen today, is the innovative use of technology in food production. Minister Sweeting has spoken to the remarkable innovation we see here.
Even fifty years ago, our grandparents would have been amazed that food might be produced in ways so different from the practices of the preceding thousands of years.
So even as we celebrate your vision and achievement, I look forward to further discussions about how technology can drive our national development.
Your Eeden Farms venture also taps into three critical priorities of our government: Food supply and Food Security, Health and Wellness, and wider issues connected to Climate Change.
Americans learned the lessons of food supply and security during the Great Depression.
Europeans learned the lessons during the Second World War.
Our Bahamian education has come about more gradually, but we are now at a point where action is unavoidable.
We began to lay the groundwork during our previous administration, when we founded BAMSI, the Bahamas Agricultural and Marine Science Institute.
If you have not done so already, I encourage you to explore a meaningful relationship with BAMSI, as this is a critical area for national development.
The issue is partly economic in that we wish to reduce the billion dollars that leaves our economy every year on the purchase of food.
But there are also wider issues relating to public Health and Wellness.
Even though we knew it before, the Covid-19 pandemic underscored the vulnerabilities of our population.
So many of the underlying illnesses that afflict our people arise from or are exacerbated by poor diet.
During the pandemic, the previous government’s own Food Programme provided some of the lowest-nutrition foods on the market to poorer communities.
We certainly do not intend repeat that, and so we must prioritise putting in place the infrastructure to guarantee fresh, affordable, healthy food for our people.
Once again, Eeden Farms is ideally placed to support us in this national effort.
I am also particularly impressed with your commitment to embrace sustainable practices in your business.
Since Hurricane Dorian, understandably much of the national conversation has been about disaster management and building resilience against future catastrophes.
Less prominent have been discussions about opportunities in the Blue and Green economies.
As the costs for renewable energy sources go down, and the demand for things like non-genetically-modified foods rises, we are keen that Bahamian entrepreneurs take advantage of these global developments.
With the current disruptions and changes in the global supply chain, we hope that entrepreneurs such as yourselves aggressively seek out and take advantage of opportunities, as they emerge.
Entrepreneurship sits at the heart of many elements of our ‘Blueprint For Change’, the mandate on which we were elected which now forms the basis of government policy.
Of course, entrepreneurship is more than starting a business.
We need more businesses like yours, with the ambition and drive to achieve world-class success.
As you have done, we want others to push harder to develop business that meet real-world needs.
We want more disruptive business models, such as yours, that change the way we do things.
We want more businesses that understand and are more comfortable with ‘entrepreneurial risk’, and that ultimately want to develop ventures that can scale into global successes.
The success of Eeden Farms so far is both inspiration and proof-positive that Bahamians can do this, and once again, I congratulate you heartily on your success so far.
As you will have noticed from our activities both before and after the election, our administration is keen to support Bahamian businesses.
Our new Domestic Investment Board will be the main formal structure through which we will continue to do this.
We want to right the historic wrong that has emerged, whereby foreign investors and companies were given preferential terms and access over Bahamians.
We want to ensure a level playing-field, and support Bahamian investors and entrepreneurs with access to finance and other resources, along with access to markets, customers and consumers.
Even as we wish to diversify our economy from an over-reliance on tourism, we recognise that in having such a thriving tourism sector we have significant opportunities for growth.
In our view, Bahamians do not currently benefit sufficiently from the tourism value chain.
In relation to hotels and all the other major tourism operators, we think that food supply presents an obvious opportunity to satisfy the millions of visitors who come to The Bahamas each year – a multi-billion-dollar opportunity already on our doorstep.
We look forward to discussing the various ways in which our government can partner with you in accessing these markets, not just to support your business, but to grow the sector.
Some final thoughts before I finish.
As with all start-ups, the struggle for survival, the struggle for cashflow, the struggle to meet investor expectations and consumer needs, can be all-consuming.
But we believe that the kind of fundamental change that the Bahamian people long for, requires something more than just individual success.
In our New Day Administration, we want to transform the business community into one where good citizenship is built into the corporate DNA.
So I urge you to translate your millennial values and mindset into the way you recruit and treat your workers.
Conduct your business ethically.
Stay hungry, stay adaptable and stay flexible – but keep your conscience.
Stay competitive by harnessing the drive for excellence that I see in you now, to keep your business at the top.
Thank you so much for your time today.
Once again congratulations on all your success – I wish you well!
If you have questions, I’m happy to continue the conversation.