Government has revealed plans to revitalise the local agriculture industry through the implementation of new legislation and the establishment of a new statutory body.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Dr Natalio Wheatley made it clear during a recent airing of the Honestly Speaking with Claude Skelton Cline radio programme that the VIP government will not be neglecting the core of agriculture in the territory in pursuit of capitalising on the marijuana industry.
“We’ve made a decision that we are going into the marijuana industry and persons believe that means that we are going to ignore crop production and live stock production. Nothing can be further from the truth,” the minister stated.
“In fact, just this week we have a consultant from Canada who’s been working with us here in the Virgin Islands for some time, who is actually revising legislation to help establish a commercially viable agricultural industry. The legislation for agriculture is decades old, and there’s a lot of things that we can do in that legislation to modernise agriculture and fisheries.” he added.
Proper structure lacking
Dr Wheatley further said he believes that agriculture in the territory is in dire need of a proper structure. He said it needs proper investments and persons who are passionate about farming, where government can then assist to setup those persons.
He started: “Right now we give them land, we might give them some posts and fences and say make magic happen, but they need certain inputs to be able to be successful. And then what we are going to do is set up a statutory body that is actually going to set a farmer up in an operation, and contract them to be able to grow a particular crop.”
Statutory body to create proper structure
Minister Wheatley further said he believes the introduction of a statutory body will bring consistency to the marketplace, since crops and livestock will be better coordinated to meet the various market demands.
“We will be basically contracting farmers to grow a particular crop, and we will give them a guaranteed market, whatever it is they can produce we will buy, and we are going to make sure it gets to the supermarkets, to the restaurants, to farmers market etcetera,” Dr Wheatley explained.
Government has been embarking on a number of new agriculture initiatives which are geared at sustaining the economy, as the territory is projected to continue to suffer major declines in its premium income earner which is the financial services sector.
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