Opportunities for Bahamians to explore food processing

Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation and the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture are providing opportunities for Bahamians to explore food processing. And, BAIC executive chairman Edison M. Key, addressing the Abaco Business Outlook, urged Bahamians to tap into the estimated $500 million in food products being imported into The Bahamas each year. Food scientist, Mrs Donna Bromfield, secretary of the Jamaica Food Processors Association, addressed food processors in Eleuthera and Andros last weekend. She was accompanied by BAIC’s senior food processing officer Tonjia Burrows, IICA Bahamas representative Dr. Marikis Alvarez, BAIC general manager Benjamin Rahming, and assistant general manager (agriculture) Arnold Dorsett. She also met North Andros High School principal Therese Curry and her team with a view to reinforcing the food processing programme there.

North Andros High, situated in Nicholl’s Town, has one of the best agriculture programmes in the pubic education system. Mrs. Bromfield, also a food safety specialist, visited at the invitation of BAIC and IICA. IICA is the specialised agency of the Inter-American System for the promotion of agriculture and rural well-being, with efforts focused on making agriculture competitive and sustainable. It was noted that a large amount of fruits and vegetables go to waste each year in The Bahamas. “There is always an abundant supply of food and nobody knows what to do to preserve it,” said Mrs. Bromfield. “So the whole matter of post harvest is a challenge.” She pointed out that in Eleuthera persons had taken on food preservation in various ways. One lady had about 30 products, but they were not on the international market. “I would like to help them with best practices, and proper procedures but they need a processing facility more than anything else. “When you go into the US market they are going to want to know where the goods are coming from and the source so they can trace it back.

“In accordance with the US Food Safety Modernisation Act these things cannot go onto the US market unless best practices are in place,” said Mrs. Bromfield. She agreed that opportunities are in place for Bahamians in food processing by way of import substitution. “The potential is definitely there,” she said. “Bahamian mangoes, for example, go to waste and you import mangoes. There are a lot of imported tomato products on the supermarket shelves and tomatoes are going to waste in The Bahamas so we can definitely reduce that import bill.” Already plans are being drawn up for Mrs. Bromfield to conduct food processing seminars and workshops. “She has been a great help in the few days she has been with us,” said Mrs. Burrows. “I look forward to us doing many projects together on a very long term basis.”

One of the highlights of Mrs. Bromfield’s visit was the formation of a North Andros food processors group headed by Annamae Rolle of Nicholl’s Town. She will work with North Andros High’s food processing teacher Ann Rolle. “We agreed that more can be achieved as a unit as opposed to processors going at it alone by themselves,” said Mrs. Burrows. BAIC’s Food Processing Unit has been conducting a series of Family Island training courses on value-adding products – fruits and vegetables. As head of the Unit, Mrs. Burrows has trained in Jamaica, Belize and China.

Source: thebahamasweekly.com

Publication date: 9/28/2011

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