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Roban outlines new agricultural strategy to aid food security

The Government has announced a new integrated agriculture strategy

The Government yesterday unveiled plans to try and enhance the island’s local food production and increase food security.

Speaking in the House of Assembly, Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier and the Minister of Home Affairs, announced an integrated agriculture strategy, which will form part of the Government’s Economic Development Strategy.

He told MPs: “While the worst of the impacts of the pandemic thankfully recede in our rear view mirror, it has left us painfully aware of how much we rely on overseas exports. Not in recent memory has our local food security been of greater importance.

“Recent international events have shown that small island nations like Bermuda can be significantly impacted by supply chain issues as well as higher costs, quality, quantity and availability of basic food products.“

The minister added: “These concerns translate into a critical need to improve Bermuda’s food and nutritional security by developing and supporting a vibrant local agriculture sector.

“Recognising that food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

Walter Roban said the general objectives of the strategy need to include the following:

1. Making inputs cheaper to assist in lowering the cost to produce good quality local food.

2. Help reduce preventable losses of locally produced food.

3. Provide good quality storage of produce.

4. Identify opportunities to enhance local production through the addition of new crops and technologies to grow these new crops and/or existing crops more efficiently.

5. Provide direct assistance to local farmers, through advice, training and services, to improve output and reduce preventable losses of locally produced food.

6. Explore means of making more land available for production and to use that which is in production more efficiently.

7. Explore opportunities to add value to locally grown food.

8. Encourage greater participation and job growth in the agriculture sector.

9. Better utilise technology to improve domestic food production.

10. Assess and strengthen workforce development needs.

11. Promote and develop Food Co-operatives.

The minister said that over the next year, the Government will endeavour to implement the objectives by developing an IAS that will contain key components including the following strategies:

1. A Crop Strategy

2. A Dairy Strategy

3. A Livestock/Poultry Strategy

4. A Honey Bee and Pollinator Strategy

5. A Fruit Tree Strategy

6. An Aquaculture Strategy

The minister said that both the Crop Strategy 2016-2021 and the draft Dairy Strategy 2013 are under review to better reflect the current needs since the onset of the Covid pandemic.

The review is being undertaken by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, in consultation with the Board of Agriculture. Work is to begin on the livestock/poultry, honey, fruit tree and aquaculture components.

Mr Roban added: “While the strategy will set out the actions for the medium to long term, we have a number of priority initiatives that are required to address several pressing issues.”

He said they included:

• A crop innovation study aimed at identifying opportunities to replace imports, undertaken by a consultant agriculture economist who will carry out an assessment of opportunities for new crop varieties and means to increase production of those crops currently being grown by local farmers.

• The identification of new land for increased production. Land, or lack of it, is a critical challenge for the agriculture industry, said Mr Roban.

• Introduce measures to curtail night time farming and selling of illegally harvested produce.

“To help with this we will fully implement the infield camera monitoring programme. A number of cameras are already operational, and we encourage all of our commercial farmers to contact the department to discuss with us their problem areas so we may be better able to assist in tackling this problem together,” added Mr Roban.

“We will also address illegal selling of produce through the introduction of a registration of commercial farmers to properly identify commercial farmers who sell goods roadside and to strengthen the penalties for those who participate in “night farming”. This will require amendments to the Agriculture Act 1930.

“It is not intended that this will be cumbersome or costly for our farmers but more a simple identification system similar to that used by the commercial fishermen.

"We need to ensure that as we encourage more growing that we have the infrastructure to store it as optimally as possible and that it is made available to the public in the best quality as it can be.

“As such we will develop, subject to budgetary approvals, a replacement Agriculture Services Centre to support increased local production, particularly storage of locally produced food.

“Last but certainly not least we will provide critical advice and direct support to farmers to assist with reducing preventable losses caused by disease and boost in field production.“

New consultant agronomist, Scott Swanson

Work will include:

• In-field disease identification and prevention, soil health and management, seed selection and assessment of crop seed varieties to produce the best yields;

• Securing of materials and supplies for the agriculture industry, pesticide use and their application;

• Development of industry and grading standards; and post-harvest handling and added value.

“In closing I would like to take this opportunity to encourage the public to buy local, support our farmers and fishermen, so that they can continue to provide for you.”

• The minister’s full statement can be found under related media.

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Published February 28, 2023 at 7:45 am (Updated February 28, 2023 at 8:19 am)

Roban outlines new agricultural strategy to aid food security

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