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Premier and Minister of Finance Dr. the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley has stated the Government of the Virgin Islands is poised to advance agriculture with the passing of the Food Security and Sustainability Act.
“I am very pleased to report that the Food Security and Sustainability Act 2022 received royal assent. We now officially have a new legal framework within which to advance agriculture,” Premier Wheatley said at a press conference on August 26.
Premier Wheatley said the law allows for the “establishment of the Agriculture and Fisheries Authority to manage the sector as stated in the Act.”
The Act’s preamble describes the objective of the legislation, to “establish an effective mechanism to promote food security and sustainability in the Territory.”
Additionally, the Act will “rationalise and standardise the allocation and use of agricultural and fishery resources within the context of the overarching sustainable development goals of the Virgin Islands.”
To that end, Premier Wheatley explained that advancing agriculture will involve the formalisation of the process to issue land leases to farmers at Paraquita Bay, adding, “In the weeks ahead, Cabinet will approve an official process that will provide our farmers with the legal certainty they require to continue to confidently farm the land.”
Further, according to the Act, Government will undertake an inventory of Crown Lands that are used for agriculture and fisheries production.
The Honourable Premier also stated that funds are being made available for infrastructural development that will help to facilitate farming, especially access to water.
Premier Wheatley said the House of Assembly will soon approve a Supplementary Appropriation Bill (SAP) that will fund the construction of a reservoir at Paraquita Bay as well as equipment to pump water from the Territory’s wells.
“These steps will improve our hardworking farmers’ ability to produce food for our people, especially as we see prices continue to rise due to inflation,” he explained.
The Premier gave an update on his recent duty travels to the Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago. While in Nassau, Premier Wheatley joined CARICOM Heads of Government, Environment Ministers and Foreign Ministers for meetings on climate finance with officials from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss financing for Small Island Developing States for adaptation and mitigation measures in response to climate change. The meeting was also an opportunity to commence the coordination of a regional position for the COP27 meeting in Egypt in November where nations from around the world will further consider how to arrest global warming.
The Premier attended the Agri-Investment Forum and Expo II, hosted by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, about which he opined, “The expo was inspirational to say the least and provided a real vision for agriculture in the Caribbean as we strive to become more self-sufficient in food production.”
Premier asserted that the region must reduce its food import bill for “a greater sense of food security, especially during these uncertain times where inflation is running rampant”.
“The Expo clearly demonstrated that farmers in the Caribbean are capable of producing for our people, including processed goods at the next stage of the value chain.”
Premier Wheatley continued, “Here in the Virgin Islands, we are starting from a lower base, but the principle is the same. We must produce as much food for ourselves as we can. We are taking some important steps in this regard.”
Minister for Natural Resources and Labour Honourable Melvin Turnbull also gave a presentation at Friday’s press conference. Watch the full press conference on the Government of the Virgin Islands’ Facebook page.