Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour Dr. the Hon. Kedrick Pickering recently announced that Government was exploring a new greenhouse initiative, and other agricultural prospects. The announced agricultural rebirth was cited in the House of Assembly last week as Deputy Speaker, and Fifth District Representative, Hon. Delores Christopher questioned the Minister’s interest in the subject.
The announced plans for the agricultural sector was made by the Deputy Premier during the public consultative meeting that was held in Virgin Gorda on 25 January. Hon. Pickering told the gathering: “Right now we have three major proposals before us to help develop agriculture and agri-business in the BVI and what is really fascinating about them is all of them are taking into consideration technology especially the green house technology.”
However, it appears that the interest from overseas investors and the new plan has not impressed Hon. Christopher who openly declared during the debate of the Virgin Islands Recovery and Development Agency Act, 2018 in the House of Assembly on 23 March that there should be scrutiny of certain proposals.
“The way I see it we can’t open a doorway. We can’t make it so easy for others to come here; because we had a hurricane that mash us up…We are going to put something in place that benefits others and not benefit us. Us meaning our people — that’s our first commitment,” Hon. Christopher said.
In elaborating on the greenhouses the Fifth District Representative said: “We are already hearing about the greenhouses Madame Speaker. We had a bad experience with some greenhouses already because what the public does not know is how many millions of dollar we already spent on them greenhouse. The storm finish — mash them up, up Paraquita [Bay]…Now we get another set coming. All of a sudden the Minister, I am sorry the Deputy Premier isn’t here because he is the Minister for the subject, but all of a sudden greenhouse is on his tongue, each farmer is to get one,” Hon. Christopher continued.
Agriculture Ignored for Decades
The Backbencher explained that prior to the hurricanes the farming community openly aired their displeasure about the manner the sector was being treated. However, Hon. Christopher said that nothing was done: “Madame Speaker the farmers up Paraquita bawling for water for time, asking for little assistance here and there. They cancelled farmer’s day, them this and that – nobody studying no farmers. Right now — come farmers we got some greenhouses. Something is wrong, something is wrong. People are using the hurricane and our disaster for their opportunity.”
The Legislator indicated that some investors are trying to capitalize on the destructions caused by the hurricanes for their own gain. “They are using it for their opportunity, their business opportunity. Setting it up in a way that our people won’t be the ones who are benefiting…Our farmers up Paraquita – our agricultural fairs was one of the big things from back in the days when you had to dip the cows, then carry them; you were proud to show your little sheep and get your first prize. Who had the biggest pumpkin and who had the biggest this and the biggest that, right now the only thing we could be introduced to is medical marijuana,” Hon. Christopher announced.
Speaking of which Hon. Christopher said that she is not knocking the idea of exploring medical marijuana as she noted that it could turn out to be a worthwhile undertaking: “I am not saying I don’t know. It might be good. I don’t know the benefits of it so I wouldn’t say that, that it is a bad thing,” the Backbencher stated.