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Agriculture becoming main economic pillar a welcomed idea

Arona Fahie-Forbes

Deputy Chief Agricultural Officer Arona Fahie-Forbes believes the time is ripe for the territory to make good on the vision of developing the agriculture sector and transforming it into the territory’s main economic pillar.

Minister with responsibility for agriculture Dr Kedrick Pickering recently said he expects agriculture to surpass the financial services and tourism sectors to become the main revenue-earner for the British Virgin Islands.

Fahie-Forbes told BVI News that she welcomes the news.

“I have been in the agriculture sector for 35 years and this is the time that it is needed,” the Deputy Agricultural Officer said.

Walk the walk 

According to Fahie-Forbes, the government should ‘walk the walk’ now that they have ‘talked the talk’.

“It is better late than never … After the hurricane season where we have to rebuild, this would be a pivotal time for us to put in place the resources that are required.”

She said human, financial, and structural resources are needed.

She said supporting legislation is also needed to make the sector become the territory’s economic leader.

“… [We need] to make improvements to them (the laws) and where we do not have any, we put it in place to make the environment favourable for the agriculture sector to go forward,” she reasoned.

Currently, the financial service sector accounts for about 60 percent of the annual revenue. The local tourism sector accounted for one in four jobs prior to the hurricanes.

The tourism sector was hit hard by disasters and several major resorts and tourist hubs closed as a result.

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16 Comments

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  1. strupes says:

    So only the white boys would be given licenses to grow medical marijuana compliments of the cuban…Them alone will make all the big bucks

  2. Albion says:

    It never ceases to amaze me: both the Minister with responsibility for agriculture and our chief agricultural officer like to talk on this subject, but it is perfectly clear that neither one of them has any idea whatsoever about what is required for an economically sustainable agribusiness. You need cheap, flat, fertile, arable land. You need plentiful water. You need cheap labour. You need good transport links to export product to markets. BVI has literally none of these things.

    They have no interest in making agriculture a “pillar of the BVI economy”. That is just fantasy. What they want to do is suck up money from more productive areas of the economy like financial services and tourism, give it to farmers, and then force the public to buy highly over priced local produce instead of much more affordable imported food.

  3. Angus Rogerme-McWhite says:

    I say, the honorable minister should stop smoking gangs.

  4. Sam the man says:

    Albion – you nailed it! Tortola is about as much suited to becoming a main agricultural center as Saudi Arabia is to hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics – the country just ain’t suitable for it to be economic…end of …

  5. Consultant says:

    Great idea. What land? What are we irrigating with? What are we growing? If it’s going to be the main economic pillar, we’d be looking at an agricultural economic output in the $ 200 million per year range (based on say a GNP of $ 400 million). We have about 46 sq. miles, say 20% of it arable, or about 6,000 acres, so we’d be generating about $ 33,000 an acre (or $ 8.1 million per km). See https://tinyurl.com/ybcl2jg6 for comparative data. Looks like only illegal (at least for now) crops would cut it. Another case of failing to engage brain before putting mouth into gear it seems. I’m all for growing local produce, and think that some local farmer could stand to make a decent living growing organic crops, but ag could never be an economic mainstay in a place with limited land, and water shortage issues. Besides, few would be willing to work for the wages ag pays.

  6. Silent says:

    The current administration (minister, chief and deputy chief agricultural officers) put the final nails in the casket. They have shown no interest in agriculture. I don’t think that it is economically feasible to even keep that department open. All they need is a boarder protection & veterinary unit and everyone else can go home

  7. E. Leonard says:

    The VI economy comprises of 2 fragile pillars, ie, financial services and tourism. Financial services contributes approximately 60% of government revenue; tourism, most of the remainder. Though financial services generates more revenue, tourism provides more direct and indirect employment. Undoubtedly, if one of economic pillars stumbles, the overall economy can tumble. The economy needs to be diversified so that the stumbling of one pillar does not result in a major impact on the overall economy. Can agriculture become the main economic pillar?

    Promoting agriculture as becoming the main economic pillar is a noble vision. Nonetheless, there are number of factors constraining agriculture from becoming the main economic pillar. These factors include 1) lack of arable land, 2)hilly terrain, 3)converting arable land to other uses, ie, housing…….etc, and 4) high cost of production compared to external producers/external competition. For example, Chiquita, a large multinational cooperation, can probably produce a pound of banana more economically than, perhaps, local producers. Other factors that can impact agricultural production and the ability of the VI to feed itself includes, lack of water/irrigation, increasing population/rising demand, equipment, farming supplies, transportation, storage facilities, central farmers market……..etc.

    Nevertheless, though IMO agriculture becoming the main economic pillar is a major challenging opportunity and the nation may not be able to feed itself, government should take action(s) to maximize agricultural production. Producing as much as possible locally can 1)reduce the food import bill and 2) enhance food security posture.

    Moreover, in regards to economic diversity, the VI needs to strengthen and deepen the financial services and tourism pillars and look at developing a knowledge-based economy, light manufacturing, back office operations……..etc. Need to benchmark Singapore, a small 270 square island in the South China Sea, yet an economic power house.

    • Eagle and Buffalo says:

      Do the MNRL and DCAO truly believe that agriculture can become the maintain economic pillar, despite decades working in agriculture? Do they even have a working knowledge of the agribus? Or election is on the horizon and the nonsense sounds good (so they think)? Or they are smoking some badly polluted, impure wacky cannabis? Is this a case of the leader spouting off, ie, ready, fire, aim and the staffer following the leader off the cliff?

      Other bloggers have outlined good reasons why agriculture despite the BVI best effort will not become the main economic pillar——Albion, Maggie, Consultant, , E. Leonard, Sam among others. Let’s grow what we can as much as we and import the rest. Growing as much we can can reduce the food import bill and improve food security situation.

      Furthermore, there is no stigma in working ground/agriculture; we have fallen for the foolish belief that there is a stigma in working ground or working with our hands outdoors. Even the suit cladded geniuses have to look food to eat. They may shop at the supermarket instead of the “market” but need food to eat. Filter out the noise and nonsense. Grow what you can so that if boat do not or cannot come you can survive. You cannot “nyam” the money.

      Let’s lead like eagles, not careen off the cliff like buffaloes.

  8. SMFH says:

    I have no words left…….none!

  9. Maggie says:

    Water supply was always a problem for agriculture in colonial times. That will never change.

    Just grow your own produce for you and your family. cheaper and more satisfying.

    Every time the government gets involved in this it just doesn’t happen.

    What about that loan from Deutsche Banks a few years back for polytunnels? Is that being paid back?

  10. Diepak Paul says:

    Having lived on atleast 5 islands from Hong Kong in the east,Srilanka , Maritius in Africa, Jamaica, and the BVI in Caribbean. I see BVI alone has the distinction of being able to starve if no outside help is available with in 3 months. Others can survive.

  11. old man says:

    We can talk all we want about agribusiness, pillars and production targets but the reality is far simpler. Local produce tastes better, and if organically grown, is better for you. Just that alone should be enough to support local farmers, but there is more. Farming leads to a diverse economy which in turn improves opportunities. Not everyone wants to be a waiter. These increased opportunities, and being able to choose a career path instead of being forced into one, cement the cultural identity of a people. This is what is happening here. Pull the shovel out of the soil and the heart comes out of the land. Yes, farming really is that important to cultural identity. Support local farmers, pay that extra dollar, and thrive.

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