"The Bahamas will not see an increase in imports from Haiti" assured Bahamian Minister of Agriculture, contradicting Haitian President
Posted by NassauGuardian on Wednesday, February 28, 2018 Under: Economy
Responding to backlash in some circles over the government’s agreement to strengthen trade links for the purchase and sale of agricultural products and seafood and exportable fisheries from Haiti, Minister of Agriculture Renward Wells insisted yesterday that the agreement will not see an increase in imports for the country. Haitian President Jovenel Moise and Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis discussed the agreement ahead of the 29th Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) over the weekend.
“Well, let me first of all say that I’ve heard the backdoor chatter, especially from the Bahamian farmers who are concerned that perhaps we are opening up the country to Haitian imports, to the detriment of them,” Wells told reporters, outside of Cabinet.
“I want the farmers, the fishermen in this country to understand and know that we are their servants.
“I hear them and I also want them to know that we are not going to do anything that’s going to cause them to not be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor in this country.”
Wells explained that the produce and products that Haiti currently exports to the United States are purchased from the U.S. and imported into The Bahamas.
“We are saying, rather than having the United States as a middle man, we can have direct trade with Haiti, which is the desire of the Haitian government and the Haitian farmers and the Haitian people,” Wells said.
“So, we are not going to be importing any more than what we currently import.
“And on top of that, it’s not the government of The Bahamas that is going to be importing; it’s going to be the current distributors, wholesalers, who would make contact with whichever groups in Haiti.”
Wells insisted that the Haitian government has to meet certain phytosanitary and shipping rules in order to be able to export to The Bahamas.
“They have to have containerized shipping, which they currently do not have to The Bahamas,” he noted.
“Their phytosanitary requirements have to be increased, in that we have to be able to source exactly which farm your produce came from. That is not readily resident in Haiti at this point in time.
“So, the Haitian government has committed to raise their standard so that they can meet our requirements, so that Bahamian business persons can actually trade directly with Haiti.”
Products from Haiti are expected to flow into the Bahamian market by December 31, 2018, with Haiti meeting all criteria and conditions.
Asked whether this is a realistic proposed timeline, Wells said, “I can’t speak for the Haitian government as for how much investment they would put into this, but currently the Haitian president himself owns a very large farm that actually exports to Europe, that meets the phytosanitary requirements for European exports, as well as a couple other farmers.
“So they have the requisite knowledge, it’s just it’s not throughout the country and there is no direct shipping that comes from Haiti here.
“There is shipping that goes from Haiti to Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, that would meet our requirements.
“So, I believe that they are capable of doing it.
“But at the end of the day, that’s something that the Haitian government has to decide on. That doesn’t have [anything] to do with The Bahamas.”
Wells also said that the agreement is not new, noting that the initial agreement was signed in 2014 under the Christie administration.
The Christie administration on July 29, 2014 signed three agreements with the Haitian government, which are intended to further trade development between both countries and lead to a decrease in illegal migration.
The agreements include a framework for bilateral cooperation, an agreement on trade and technical cooperation in agriculture and fisheries and an agreement on the promotion and protection of investments.
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