A proposed piece of legislation titled the Virgin Islands Food Security & Sustainability Bill is slated to pave the way for the introduction of an Agriculture & Fisheries Marketing Authority to manage the business affairs of the sector.
Legal draftsman George Romilly said during a live online forum on Thursday that the authority will be a for-profit cooperative managed for the benefit of local fisherfolk and farmers.
“The Bill provides that the initial ownership will be 49 percent of the authority with the shares owned by the government, and members of the authority will own the remaining 51 percent,” Romilly explained.
“There is a clause in the Bill that provides that once the authority manages to demonstrate that is has attained financial and sound management benchmarks, the government will divest itself of the majority shareholding and therefore the members themselves will become the majority shareholders,” he added.
The barrister said the board of directors for the authority will comprise the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries, the territory’s Financial Secretary, as well as the authority’s Director-General.
Additionally, there will be eight other directors from the fishing and farming sector, including representatives from the sister islands.
He also said the authority would provide technical and business support, training, and grants during times of emergency.
The entity will relieve the Department of Agriculture of the responsibility to manage the BVI abattoir and to lease Crown land for food production, among other things.
Fishing complexes on each of the four main islands will also be introduced.
“Our department is not well-positioned to promote commerce and is best at regulating while leaving the business of fishing and farming to the private sector,” Director of Agriculture Theodore James explained.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Dr Natalio Wheatley said the new Bill will replace the present archaic law for those sectors.
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