Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
House of Assembly
Release Date:
Wednesday, 6 March 2024 - 9:16am

Madam Speaker this government remains very committed to food sovereignty and food security. A country, no matter how small, must have a level of control over the production of food within its borders and should not rely exclusive on food being imported in order to feed itself. The Junior Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries has updated me relating to matters in these sectors and I now wish to do the same for this Honourable House.

During the month of March 2024, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will host a series of activities aimed at sharing with the public what is happening in the sector, enhancing and building community among practitioners, sensitizing the public about locally available food, where it is produced and how it can be prepared in new and creative ways.

The month will feature agriculture exhibitions on Virgin Gorda March 2nd, Anegada March 8th, Tortola March 16th and 17th, and Jost Van Dyke on March 23rd. This schedule is a deviation from previous years when the activities were held within one week and the only activity on weekends was on Tortola. Spreading the exhibitions over the month will allow greater participation from persons on the featured islands as well as an increased opportunity for persons from neighboring islands to attend the exhibition on the island of their choice.

Madame Speaker, the month will also feature opportunities for sharing and growth. Farmers and the wider community have been invited to a community conversation on regenerative agriculture on March 13th. In this setting experts and everyday practitioners will in engage on topics such as soil conservation and enrichment, climate resilient approaches to farming, and composting. There will also be a session for young persons that will allow them to interact with representatives of regional schools offering post-secondary agricultural programmes.

Farm tours will take place, aimed at promoting local farm products and allowing the public to see precisely how these products are grown. From farm to the table, a series of gourmet dinners are also planned that will feature all local products and highlight the creative ways in which our agricultural output can be presented.

Madame Speaker, this Government remains committed to the growth of agriculture and fisheries in the territory. The Virgin Islands Food Security and Sustainability Act is expected to be brought into force during this year. This act will trigger the establishment of the Virgin Islands Agriculture and Fisheries Marketing Authority which allow the new arm of government to be better engaged and more flexible in dealing with practitioners in the field as we seek to promote and move the industry forward. This will include enhancing our ability to seek funding to support the sector and when funding is available to help operators to access it in a transparent manner.

Policies that are created or impacted by other areas of government will also be important. Our Crown Land policies is expected to identify and make available more land for agriculture across the territory.  Our policy concerning water, another important input in the farming process, is currently being drafted and should also positively impact farming and encourage farmers to produce more. Preferential rates for water for farmers will be a key aspect considered in the development of this policy. The geotechnical work associated with establishing a reservoir to supply farmers in the Paraquita Bay Valley is nearing completion and the project is expected to be completed in December 2024.

Invitations to register have already been issued for the agriculture aspect of the RATED programme that is expected to help develop the next generation of farmers.

Madame Speaker, by facilitating the building of a learning network of practitioners and appropriate government support we look forward to greater production in these sectors.

Thank you.