Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour in his tribute to the late former Legislator Hon. Omar Hodge, who was the previous holder of his Ministry portfolio announced that the greenhouse project and the technological advancement it promises could have been further had Irma not struck.
The greenhouse initiative was piloted during the Virgin Islands Party administration by Hon. Hodge who saw the project as a means of reinvigorating agriculture in the BVI. In his tribute to the late Parliamentarian Hon. Pickering said: “Hon. Hodge was a man who did all he could to assist his constituents and indeed the people of the Territory. While he was a politician, he was very passionate about agriculture and in many ways, he was a farmer at heart.”
“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.”
In February last year during an interview with The Island Sun newspaper the Minister of Natural Resources updated that the greenhouse project, which is a big part of agricultural advancement, was moving forward: “We have been working diligently to get the greenhouses up and running. We owe IBT $1.5 million dollars more with respect to the overall budget. We cannot move forward the project until our contractual obligations have been met. The House of Assembly has finally given the Government and the Ministry the permission to borrow the needed fund to pay off the outstanding debt that we have with IBT. It is also important to continue to say that all of the hardware necessary for the greenhouses to be functional are sitting in a warehouse at Paraquita Bay but they are owned by IBT …until and unless we pay the final sum owed to them then the process can’t go forward and so we are in the final stages of getting that done.”
Dr. Pickering also admitted that the present state of the industry was disappointing, but assured that technology is a needed component: “Technology is where we have to move, and because we already have a start in that direction, and I will be the first to admit that it is a very disappointing situation but it isn’t that we haven’t tried to move the process forward it has just been a very difficult situation negotiating and paying off the outstanding etc to get the greenhouses up and running. We have a number of private and local individuals – farmers who are interested in the technology – and we are excited to move forward.”
“I said recently that it is probably the first time as Minister I am actually excited about agriculture because there are two things happening – we are in the final stages of having the greenhouses sorted out; and the up and running of the sewerage treatment plant at Paraquita Bay we will then have enough water to supply not only the farms at Paraquita Bay but also to help with the green houses,” he added.
These changes the Minister noted will also be key to solve the water needs of the famers and electricity needs of the greenhouses: “In addition to that we are in discussion with the Electricity Corporation now that Government has an energy policy and [Government] has amended the legislation on a number of initiatives. We are at a stage where we are getting ready to embark on a program with Electricity Corporation to use renewable energy especially at Paraquita Bay for the greenhouses in the initial instance…The discussion is ongoing.”