By Davion Smith, BVI News Journalist
Fishermen and farmers whose livelihoods were severely impacted because of the hurricanes are being told that they will have to wait before they can get any financial assistance to jumpstart their trade.
Hurricane Irma wrecked several local fishing boats and leveled farmlands by wiping out crops and livestock, as well as destroying poultry coops and animal pens.
Minister responsible for agriculture Dr Kedrick Pickering, said farmers and fishermen have been placed at the bottom of the priority list and may not see a cent of financial assistance until the second quarter of next year.
“That’s a more practical time to say when we will get our hands on any kind of fund to be able to say we could help a fisherman or a farmer in a very direct way.”
“As of now, we can help in non-monetary ways but in terms of giving financial support at this point in time, that’s probably the best estimate that I could say,” Dr Pickering stated yesterday.
He was responding to concerned agriculture workers during a community meeting in Carrot Bay, which is a well-known fishing village in the BVI.
The minister explained that funds allocated to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour — under which agriculture falls — are being used to retrieve vessels that sunk during the hurricane.
It ain’t cheap
He described it as an expensive task for government, adding that uninsured vessels that are retrieved must then be shipped to other countries such as the United States to be stripped of parts and recycled.
“We (the Ministry) are responsible for the marine environment. All of the boats that are sunken anywhere in the BVI whether on Jost Van Dyke, Little Thatch, Peter Island, Virgin Gorda — that falls on us. That’s our responsibility to help to get those removed; especially those that are sunken and it ain’t cheap… Getting them out of the water is only one half of the story. Getting them out of the country is another.”
“That is consuming literally all the little money that we have to do anything in our Ministry,” Dr Pickering explained.
The agriculture minister further stated that other funds donated to government have to be pumped into more important areas.
“It’s one of those things that will be told to us in the Recovery Plan. Roads are more important and you got to get the roads fixed, you got to get the hospital fixed, you got to get the schools up and running.”
“It’s a question of budgetary allocation, so there is going to be some money allocated to fishing and farming but it’s not in the immediate set of money that we get,” said Dr Pickering.
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