Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Release Date:
Friday, 15 March 2024 - 4:12pm




FRIDAY, 15th MARCH, 2024


Good day members of the media, and the listening and viewing public.

 I also greet the Premier, Dr. the Hon Natalio Wheatley and commend him for his foresight in assigning the portfolio of agriculture and fisheries, as an exclusive responsibility to a specific member of his team. This is the first time this has been done and I am humbled to have been chosen to take up this role.

The Government of the Virgin Islands remains committed to the principles of food sovereignty and food security and to ensuring that we have a far greater capacity to feed ourselves than currently obtains.

Various plans and activities are in place to help us achieve that goal, including, bringing into force the Virgin Islands Food Security and Sustainability Act. and the resulting statutory body, the Virgin Islands Agriculture and Fisheries Marketing Authority,  the provision of a reservoir for agricultural purposes at Paraquita Bay, regularisation of the use of farm plots on at Paraquita Bay, assignment of farm plots on other islands, and the development of the agricultural complex.

We are in the process of developing the comprehensive plan for agriculture and fisheries in the Territory. This process has been informed by public meetings with farmers held since I assumed responsibility, relevant documents, such as the Virgin Islands Sustainable Development Plan, the Blue Economy Road Map, regional initiatives, as well as the work plans established by the Department of Agriculture.

This plan will bring together these various elements into a singular document that can guide the sectors. This will be completed in the second quarter of this year, including consultations with stakeholders around the proposed plan.

We are also working on long-term and short-term solutions for farmers surrounding water, particularly at the Paraquita Bay Farms. The reservoir project continues on track and more resources are being deployed to address the issues around the distribution system.

Amid the issues, we must still move where movement is possible. This year’s agriculture and fisheries month activities are aimed at connecting producers with consumers, developing the sector, and encouraging our youth.

Four agricultural exhibitions and market events were scheduled across the major islands. Exhibitions have been held on Anegada and Virgin Gorda and both communities were pleased with those events.

The exhibition on Tortola is scheduled for this weekend, March 16th and 17th, while Jost Van Dyke will be held on March 23rd. Many farmers have been giving their best efforts despite trying circumstances. This is a sector that we are proud of and wish to showcase during this time.

I see brighter days ahead for agricultural production as we are on the way to addressing the water issue particularly at Paraquita Bay, making more land available for farming, building a stronger community among those producing in the sector, and building more support in the form of training. On Wednesday of this week, March 13th, we held a successful conversation on regenerative farming. Various suggestions emerged from the breakout groups which followed a presentation by local farmer, Nea Talbot.

All agreed that more sessions like those are needed for the learning and networking benefits that were produced. The session was moderated by Sommer Sibbily-Brown of the US Virgin Islands. She is the executive director of Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition and has indicated strong interests in collaborating with the sector here, both with the department and with farming groups, to give support in organizing producer networks, training, and accessing grant funding.

The theme for the month is, Sow the Seeds of Sustainability: Youth Fueling Food Security and on Wednesday 20th March the focus will be on opportunities for agricultural education in the region. Four schools from Jamaica, Guyana, and the US Virgin Islands will make presentations on their agricultural offerings via an online interactive presentation.  This event will take place at Lecture Room 2 at the Elmore Stoutt High School from 4:30 to 6:00.

Earlier on this same day, I will be touring several school gardens across the Territory. Green VI has been engaged in a project to reintroduce or revitalize school gardens. The efforts are literally starting to bear fruit, but more importantly we are introducing more young persons to farming. At the same time, we want to ensure that they are aware of the range of opportunities available in this sector such as marketing, research, technological support, and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Another exciting aspect of Agriculture and Fisheries Month will be gourmet dinners prepared with locally sourced foods. The aim of that activity is to showcase the creative ways in which local products can be used, thereby creating a greater demand for local products and understanding their premium value.

We are keen on seeing culturally based menu items and items featuring local products across restaurants in the Territory, serving both visitors and residents. The first dinner will be held at Pussers Outpost in Road Town, upstairs the waterfront facility, through the kind support of Mr. Mark Vanterpool and Pussers. Chef Henry Prince of the H Lavity Stoutt Community College will lead the effort. The dinners are made possible through collaboration with British Virgin Islands Food and Wine festival. They will handle much of the marketing, ticketing and other logistical activities related to the events. Two other dinners are being planned but full details are not yet confirmed. These may take place beyond March.

The two final activities for the month are the Wahoomania Fishing Tournament on Virgin Gorda on March 30th and farm tours on Tortola on the same date. The tournament is a part of the Easter festival schedule, with some support from the Department of Agriculture and fisheries. Farm tours will give members of the public an opportunity to visit farms in the territory and see how local food is produced and makes it way to the marketplace.

It promises to be an interesting learning opportunity. Students from the Elmore Stout High School participated in the farm tours on Virgin Garden and were impressed with what they saw.

I commend the Department of Agriculture for their work in building an interesting calendar of events for the month and executing the activities.