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Tuesday, June 12, 2012
The Bahamas has been urged to end its embargo on direct agriculture imports from Haiti ...with the current system thought to quintuple produce costs via Florida-based middlemen as it transits through the US
Haiti Agriculture Embargo Raises Costs Five' Times
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Nassau, The Bahamas
Bahamas has been urged to end its embargo on direct agriculture imports
from Haiti, with the current system thought to quintuple produce costs
via Florida-based middlemen as it transits through the US.
to Tribune Business ahead of the proposed Bahamas Chamber of Commerce
and Employers Confederation's (BCCEC) likely trade mission to Haiti in
September this year, Chester Cooper, the organisation's chairman, said
the current health-related barrier to direct imports from the Bahamas'
southern neighbour "stifles trade" and drives up costs for consumers in
suggested that by creating a Bahamian inspection station in Haiti, so
that this nation's officials could examine inspect agricultural produce
for health and safety issues before they were imported here, direct
trade between the two nations would increase to such an extent that it
would open up new shipping routes.
ultimately, Mr Cooper said increased trade could have the effect of
bolstering Haiti's economic stability and reducing the flow of illegal
migrants northwards to the Bahamas, creating a win-win for both nations.
that the embargo on direct Haitian agricultural imports had been raised
as a key issue on the last BCCEC trade mission to that country in
2007-2008, Mr Cooper told Tribune Business: "Regrettably, there hasn't
been any advancement on the issue.
spoken with Phillip Miller at the Ministry of Agriculture, and
understand they have tried to make some moves on the issue, and then
there was the earthquake, the cholera. There's always something that
throws the mission off."
a Bahamian team had previously visited Haiti to see if this nation
could establish an agricultural inspection facility there, Mr Cooper
said this had occurred several years ago before the earthquake that
devastated the Bahamas' southern neighbour.
the existing embargo, Mr Cooper told Tribune Business: "It stifles
direct trade itself. If we can generate the volumes, we can get more
efficient shipping routes between the Bahamas and Haiti. But, so long as
the volumes are so low, it creates inefficiencies in pricing."
just two boxes of mangos were being shipped from Haiti to the Bahamas,
Mr Cooper said it was more cost effective to send them through the US
anyway, rather than direct to this nation. If volumes rose, the demand
for direct shipping would, too, ultimately leading to the creation of
new shipping companies and routes between the two countries.
Business understands that if mangos are sold in Haiti for $0.20 per
product, Florida-based wholesalers may charge as much as $1 for them
once they have reached the US - mark up of five times' or 400 per cent.
effect, produce coming into the Bahamas from Haiti passes the Bahamas,
transits the US as they have US Department of Agriculture inspection on
the ground that facilitates trade to the US," Mr Cooper said.
box of Haitian mangos, for example, might eventually find its way to
the Bahamas after transiting the middleman in Florida, who would've
tacked on their mark-up. This is most inefficient and drives up the
costs to Bahamians unnecessarily. There were no doubt good reasons for
this position, but it has now been several decades and this should be
added: "The Bahamas government should put in place its own inspection
protocols and expedite the removal of these restrictions. Ending the
embargo will not only reduce the cost of Haitian products imported to
the Bahamas, and improve trade but, taking it to the logical conclusion,
it might help the Haitian economy and our relations with Haiti by
Cooper added that if the Government was to "commit" to removing
obstacles such as the direct agriculture embargo, it would open up more
trade and investment opportunities between the Bahamas and Haiti, and
encourage more businesses to go on the September trade mission.
important on many levels," he added. "If we can achieve it, obviously
there's the commercial aspect and it would make some contribution to the
Haitian economy. If we take it to its logical conclusion, the more
liberalised the Haitian economy is, the fewer Haitians will migrate
illegally to the Bahamas.
a macroeconomic point of view, down the road the more trade Haiti gets,
the better for everybody. We'll be working hand-in-hand with the
Government on these issues.
live in a very open economy and import the bulk of the goods we use
here. Typically, we import goods from south Florida. The south
Floridians bring them in from elsewhere, and it's important for us to
create diverse linkages where possible to reduce the overall cost of