DR. THE HONOURABLE NATALIO D. WHEATLEY
MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, CULTURE, YOUTH AFFAIRS, FISHERIES AND AGRICULTURE
ECONOMIC STIMULUS FOR FISHERS AND FARMERS IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19
Good day and God’s blessings to the people of the Virgin Islands.
Your Government continues to do all we can to ensure the safety and protection of the people of the Virgin Islands. This was our commitment from the time we presented ourselves as servants of the people.
As we all know, we are currently facing a global pandemic of epic proportions, and the world is faced with serious implications, as a result.
As of March 20th 2020, there are 209,839 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in 169 countries with 8,778 deaths. To date, there are no confirmed cases in the British Virgin Islands. But rest assured that your Government led by the Premier Honourable Andrew A. Fahie, remains proactive, committed and solutions oriented in the best interest of you the people.
As a Government, and as the Minister responsible for Agriculture and Fisheries, we recognise that the world economy is being devastated as countries face shutdowns to prevent the spread of the virus. We recognise that ports in the region and around the globe are closing. We also recognise that globally, supermarkets are struggling to satisfy demand as panicking individuals stockpile goods in anticipation of shortages in essential items. Given these circumstances, food security continues to be a major priority for your Government.
Your Government recognises that we face a serious threat, and we must become more self-sufficient. I am hopeful, and, as a Government, we are hopeful because the God of our fore-parents is still the same God today—Jehovah—the Great ‘I AM’! That is why, this morning, the Cabinet of the Virgin Islands approved a sum of $2 Million to stimulate the local Fishing and Farming sector. This stimulus package is titled, “the Rapid Response Fishing and Farming Production Programme.”
What does this mean?
It means that this funding programme will be used to purchase the supplies, among other areas, necessary to get our fisherfolks back in the water.
It means that this funding will be used to purchase the needed supplies to get our farmers back on their grounds; and, access to this funding means that we will ramp up production and provide the local market with the food necessary to sustain ourselves in this Virgin Islands economy.
I am inviting fulltime commercial fishers and farmers from Anegada to Jost Van Dyke to contact the Department of Agriculture at 468-6123 to register for this programme, and give information on the type of support that is needed to get you moving forward.
As Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, I will continue to engage the farmers and fishers cooperative in an effort to involve key stakeholders. We will also draw on the vast agricultural expertise in our community to support our Rapid Response Fishing and Farming Production Programme.
Fishing and farming is nothing new to the people of the Virgin Islands. It is how we initially built this economy. We are going back to basics but in a modern form for the saying is true: “We must never forget our roots.” Fishing and farming sustained our fore-parents for centuries, and Fishing and Farmers can help us today.
Your Government from day one said that next to Financial Services and Tourism, Fishing and Agriculture must be a major economic pillar. Now is the time and your Government has the plan on how we will sustain ourselves during this difficult time and beyond together as one Virgin Islands people.
I strongly believe that with God as our guide, we can indeed restart, jumpstart, and push forward these vital sectors as we diversify our economy for greater resilience.
People of the Virgin Islands, fear not! We are in this together. The same God who has been faithful to us during trying times is the same God that will see us through today.
God bless these beautiful Virgin Islands and remember to continue to practice social distancing, regular handwashing, avoid touching the face, and covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing.
Remember our health and safety are key to safeguarding our beloved Virgin Islands.