Exuma – The Government’s packinghouse system for farmers in Exuma will be reconstructed, Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Larry Cartwright said.
“We are trying all we can to get that paid for and here in Exuma out of the current budget,” he told farmers during a workshop on Saturday. The workshop was held in conjunction with the Exuma Garden Club’s first Horticultural Fair at Hooper’s Bay.
The former packinghouse and corn mill were severely damaged about 18 months ago when they were flooded during Tropical Storn Noel. Farmers complained they had to send their dried corn to mills in Long Island to make grits and other products.
“I was of the opinion and so was the Director (of Agriculture) that the corn mill did not experience any damage as a result of the flood,” said Mr Cartwright. “We found that impression was incorrect. The corn mill did experience some damage.”
When Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation executive chairman Edison Key and a delegation visited Exuma two weeks ago, farmers complained to them about the state of the mill.
“They came right back to Nassau and reported to us and I was able to get the Director of Agriculture to have an investigation put in place to find out what is wrong with the corn mill, if it can be fixed to get it fixed, and if it can’t be fixed, to have it replaced.
“There is no reason why 18 months later Exuma doesn’t have a corn mill. While I apologize and take responsibility for it, I want to say it was a terrible breakdown in communication, and now that we know what’s going on we will do our best to try and get it corrected,” said Mr Cartwright.
Accompanied by Permanent Secretary Cresswell Sturrup, Minister Cartwright was met in Exuma by Administrator Ivan Ferguson, Chief Councilor Teddy Clarke and Superintendent of Police Willard Cunningham, the Officer in Charge, Exuma and the Ragged Islands.
The farm exhibits of Leon Williams and his grandson Ricardo took top honors at the fair. Minister Cartwright told farmers that hotels on the island provide a consumer base for them.
“There is no reason why Four Seasons would have to bring the produce into Exuma that can be produced right here,” said Mr Cartwright.
He told farmers that the Government “will never be able to afford to pay for all of what you produce” and urged them to form an association and link directly with wholesalers and retailers.
“With the amount of visitors you have here on a daily basis and with the amount of hotels you have here,” said Mr Cartwright, “there is no reason why any farmer in Exuma should have to go looking for a (Government) packinghouse.
“The packinghouse is only going to be there on the side for items that you really cannot get a market for in Exuma.”
Farmers meantime pressed Mr. Cartwright for assistance with non-Bahamian farm laborers. Following a meeting with the new Minister with responsibility for Immigration (Minister McCartney), he said, an arrangement has been worked out to expedite applications for farm laborers.
When an application is made to bring in farm laborers, said Mr Cartwright, Immigration is to notify Agriculture and the credentials of the applicant determined.
“When you send your application in let us know so we can follow up on it for you because we want farming to go on in this country,” he said. “In order for farming to go on, we know you need farm laborers. You cannot cultivate a lot of land without labor.
“There are many farmers who have been using help from outside the country and they need work permits. I want to encourage you not to hire persons who do not have work permits, and persons who have work permits that are being paid for by someone else.”
Leon Williams (centre) and his grandson, Ricardo receive their awards from Minister of Agriculture of Agriculture and Marine Resources Lawrence S ‘Larry’ Cartwright. (BIS photo by Gladstone Thurston)
Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Lawrence S ‘Larry’ Cartwright told Exuma farmers they would get a new packinghouse. (BIS photo b Gladstone Thurston)
Magnola Adderley shows off her cakes to Exuma Garden Club president Douglas Shuttleworth during Saturday’s Horticultural Fair. (BIS photo by Gladstone Thurston)
Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Lawrence S ‘Larry’ Cartwright and his wife Ann (right) admire ornamentals at Saturday’s Exuma Horticultural Fair. (BIS photo by Gladstone Thurston)