Caribbean Islands Table of Contents
In the late 1980s, the agricultural sector consisted mainly of small farms producing poultry, fruit, and vegetables for the local market and exporting some citrus fruits and seasonal vegetables. Government policy focused on reducing food imports, expanding and diversifying agricultural exports, and increasing linkages between the agricultural sector and tourism. The government emphasized the promotion of foreign investment, including joint ventures, and the development of farming among young Bahamians. Investments in research and extension and marketing facilities led to continued growth in winter vegetables and fruit and poultry products. The BAIC promoted employment creation through joint ventures offering access to modern marketing, management, technology, and venture capital, all in short supply in the Bahamas. Inherent problems in developing the agricultural sector, however, were the scarcity and expense of local labor.
A considerable capacity existed for expansion of the agricultural sector. In 1986 the World Bank estimated that only 10 percent (16,200 hectares) of cultivable land was being farmed. Potential products included citrus crops for export, edible oils, peanuts, avocados, cut flowers, and hot peppers. Agricultural production statistics made clear the need to tap this poorly utilized economic sector. In 1985 the IDB estimated that Bahamian farmers produced just 20 percent of the food consumed on the islands, requiring the importation of millions of dollars worth of food annually; the food import bill for that year amounted to about US$200 million. According to international agencies, the nation's food bill could be met by developing suitable land on Great Abaco Island, Andros Island, and Grand Bahama.
Considerable potential also existed in the small fisheries sector. The first commercial harvest of shrimp occurred in 1984, but this barely scratched the surface of fisheries potential. In 1985 crawfish were the most valuable domestic export, with exports valued at US$18.6 million. The nation's fishing fleet was expanding, and shallow water fisheries were being developed.
Data as of November 1987