NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government has made a policy determination that persons looking to invest in The Bahamas must purchase 40 percent of all the food they intend to utilize for their operations from local farmers and fishers, Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Michael Pintard. Pintard said the policy will ensure market access for local producers, and will be included in the Heads of Agreement (HOA). “What is certain is that the government has to send to the private sector from a policy standpoint several key signals. We have made those determinations in order to ensure that producers have market access,” said Pintard while addressing the Eleuthera Business Outlook. Pintard also noted that government has taken a similar expectation regarding persons importing food, namely restaurants, hotels, food stores, wholesalers and cruise ships. “Government funds spent on food, 75 percent of all monies spent by the Bahamian government going forward will first be spent on locally produced items before purchasing from other sources,” he said. “The caveat of course is that we must be producing global quality which we have demonstrated that we can, we must do so in a sustainable and consistent manner and the price must make sense. We are now fixing the gaps along our value chain from farm to fork. We are fixing those gaps to ensure that now that we are creating market access we are doing the things required to ensure that we can consistently produce.” Pintard noted that over the past 15 years local agriculture production has contracted. “For some items it’s been 14 percent and for others it’s been less. Our present food bill is approximately $600 million,” said Pintard, noting that adding the cost of processed foods to that number takes the country’s food import bill to $1 billion annually. “We have the capacity to do better and must do better,” said Pintard.