After years of futile efforts to get the greenhouse project in Paraquita Bay up and running, the National Democratic Party Government was on the brink of making it a reality until Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc on the multi-million dollar project on September 6.
The claim was made by Deputy Premier and Minister for Labour and Resources, Dr. Kedrick Pickering in a tribute to the late legislator, Omar Wallace Hodge who passed away on December 20.
Hodge has been credit for initiating the greenhouse project while serving as Minister for Natural Resources and Labour under the Virgin Islands Party government.
“While he was a politician, he was very passionate about agriculture and in many ways, he was a farmer at heart,” said Pickering.
“It was under his leadership that the greenhouse project was initiated. When I took over as Minister, I promised him that the project would be completed and after sorting through some issues it was well on its way, and then Irma happened.”
About the Project
The greenhouse project which has been part of the social discussions for years has cost taxpayers over $6 million.
There have been several timelines issued for the project’s completion which have not been met mainly due to funds that were owed to the Florida-based International Business and Trade (IBT).
In March of this year, Pickering remarked that Government should finally take full control of the project after revealing that a bank had changed its mind about providing funds necessary for the long-delayed project to proceed.
The government was attempting to borrow $1.5 million from Deutsche Bank to help pay a debt to International Business and Trade (IBT), which is the main owner of the intellectual property rights on the greenhouses.
That prospective loan, which was approved by the House of Assembly, was to complete payment of some $1.26 million to IBT.
Subsequent to the publication of that report, Dr. Pickering told the House of Assembly that agreements had been concluded with IBT, adding that the government would take control of the greenhouses soon.
“We are finally being able now to conclude our agreements with IBT who owned the intellectual property and the rights to the greenhouses. We could never do anything until we are finished paying them their money, and therefore we didn’t have the legal authority. We are at the end of that road now, and we have finalized everything.”
“So, in the next couple of weeks, the government will have full control over the greenhouses, in that we can finally start outfitting them and get the process moving. I am really excited about that,” added Dr Pickering at the time.
He, however, did not state whether Government had found a new source for the $1.5 million loan that was being sought to complete payment to IBT.
Dr Pickering at the time noted that the focus would have been on completing the greenhouses at Paraquita Bay; not those on Virgin Gorda.