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