Bermuda's agriculture poised to grow
SEVEN MILE BEACH, Grand Cayman: Drew Pettit was very relaxed in putting to rest speculation about the reasons for his mode of dress, especially during the formal sessions at the Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2016, held in Grand Cayman from October 24-28, where he was representing The Bahamas as director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
After three days, the one-man delegation for the United Kingdom Overseas Territory was still the subject of much conversation, a lot of which centred on how well the poor man was coping in light of the fact that the airline had obviously lost some of his luggage.
Dressed in jacket and tie, paired with dress shoes and knee-high socks, the Bermudan's formal outfit was, to say the least, eye-catching and he was quite happy to talk about it.
"It's about the biggest contribution I've made to the conference so far. I've had more questions about how I'm dressed than what I'm doing here," he told The Gleaner. "I am the most comfortable person here. One of the questions I was asked was 'Do the socks have to match the shorts?' No, you never match your socks and your shorts, but it's very comfortable."
Explaining proudly that he was wearing the national dress, which had proved very practical for the British military, especially during summer, Pettit is delighted that the once very popular clothing item, which had been in decline, is now enjoying a resurgence in popularity.
"They are coming out with a new Bermuda shorts - new fabric, new colours, more vibrant - and now, that's picking up," he disclosed, lamenting that younger people are, however, more inclined to wear the shorts as casual clothing. "It's hard to get them into a jacket and a tie," he said.
Dress code aside, though, Pettit was on a very serious mission to establish better linkages to improve the country's agriculture, which, on the face of it, poses some challenges.
Pettit explained: "Our main focus was to have a better understanding of what's in the CARICOM region. We are a part of it. We are an associate member, but we are geographically isolated, so we noticed a lot of activity in the Caribbean region and we want to know what's going on. So it's more about trying to figure out who is working, what the priorities are, what the risks are, and where people are going in the future so we can participate, join in."
With an estimated 80-90 per cent food-import bill, participation in Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2016 presented a host of opportunities for Bermuda to begin to address, in a serious way, the issue of food and nutrition security. If fact, it presented a platform for building on some of their plans already in train.
"Agriculture is not a primary industry, but we would like it to be. My (agriculture) minister is really interested in a resurgence in agriculture. We just finished a crop strategy - a five-year plan - and we're working on our dairy strategy, our livestock strategies, everything that the Caribbean and this conference is talking about, so that's what we're doing.
"We are doing a lot of stuff on our own, so we already have opportunities to create - to be able to say, 'You're already doing something'. So we are doing something ... how can we help and how can you help us? We were invited by Cayman, and we are a UK Overseas Territory, so a lot of our industries are the same, and we have a lot of similar problems," Pettit disclosed.