Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Larry Cartwright opened the second Agribusiness Expo in Freeport at the Goombay Park on Friday. It is the sixth of 12 Family Island Expos that will take place this year. The two-day expo was held in honour of the late BAIC deputy chairman Ron Darville, who was instrumental in launching the backyard farming campaign. His widow, Sheila Darville, assisted in the ribbon cutting.
A number of local producers and farmers participated in the expo. Lorraine Gibson brought a variety of her homemade jams, jellies, and preserves. Jaime Nixon displayed her banana peppers, and Daphne deGregory showcased her line Neem products made from the Neem Tree, which has antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties.
There were also live demonstrations. Minister Cartwright and guests saw a live demonstration by Desmond deGregory of how he turns tree trunks into mulch with his shredding equipment, and Harold Johnson gave a bread baking demonstration in his rock oven. Mr Cartwright said six more agribusiness expos are scheduled to take place: Bimini on March 30-31; South Andros and Mangrove Cay on April 6-7; Exuma on April 13-14; Inagua on April 20-21; and Abaco on April 27-28.
He said expos have already been held in New Providence, Eleuthera, North Andros, Long Island, and San Salvador. "These agribusiness expos are an avenue to showcase vegetables, root crops, fruits, poultry, ornamentals, marine resources, livestock and handicraft," he said. Minister Cartwright said his ministry's national mandate is to promote, encourage, and stimulate the agricultural, marine resources and agri-business sectors toward enhancing food supply and security within the Bahamas.
He noted that much progress has been made in Grand Bahama in this respect. "It is still envisaged that Freeport's Produce Exchange will be a place where quality, affordable produce is marketed. We at the Ministry of Agriculture recognise the importance of it, not only as an accessible means for the people of Grand Bahama to acquire healthy, nutritious produce, but also a viable means for farmers to earn an income and where general extension services are afforded to producers and buyers; all of which play a role in the promotion of the sector. With that in mind, we have repaired the Produce Exchange," he said.
Mr Cartwright also stated that the ministry's Stores on Credit programme to farmers continues with much success, affording registered farmers the ability to access goods on credit at the Fish and Farm store in New Providence. In Grand Bahama, he stated 10,542 acres of land has been conveyed to the ministry for agricultural purposes. He indicated that much of the land remains available for leasing.
Mr Cartwright said it is important that persons interested in acquiring land have the necessary skills to plant and harvest crops. He noted that hands-on training is available through the Backyard Farming and Community Farming Programmes. The Minister said his ministry has also taken steps to ensure there is a sustained supply of marine resources.
He indicated that Marine Protected Areas have been established in Abaco, Bimini, Berry Islands, and Exuma for the further preservation of marine resources. Mr Cartwright also said that efforts to reduce the lionfish population continue. He said they are promoting the cooking and eating of the invasive lionfish. Seafood processors, he said, have reported increased demands for lionfish.