The greenhouses that cost government millions of dollars and were being awaited as a much needed boost to the Territory’s agriculture sector have been destroyed. However, Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour, Dr. the Hon. Kedrick Pickering is choosing to see the glass as half full as he noted that the destruction has ushered in plans for agri-business.
While speaking at the public consultative meeting that was held in Virgin Gorda on 25 January Hon. Pickering noted that the greenhouses are not in working order. In fact he told the gathering that “the greenhouses that were built obviously have been destroyed, but we do not see that purely as a negative; we see that as a new opportunity. It is a challenge, but we see it as a splendid opportunity because somebody like me believe it is imperative.”
In further stressing that the destruction of the greenhouses is not a major dent in the agriculture plan Hon. Pickering added: “We see that wider perspective that what has been destroyed is a brand new opportunity. I dare say that in the next five years I see the whole agri-business developing to a point where food security in the BVI should not be talked about anymore; it should be a question of how much money we can make because we would be exporting so much food.”
The Deputy Premier announced that within his Ministry and the Department itself Government is looking at the whole concept of agri-business and how to transform the sector from being just planting to the wider scope of the businesses that can be created surrounding agriculture, agricultural development and agri-business products
The Minister disclosed that there is already buy-in for the vision, and that proposals for agri-business ventures were already submitted for his consideration: “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.”
“One of them is talking about food waste and converting food waste to develop agriculture. One is talking about using fish farming and using the waste product from fish to generate the buy products from that to be able to generate the energy necessary to grow the food and of course all of them are including the concept of green technology using alternative energy,” Hon. Pickering mentioned.
On the other hand, the other company is interested in leasing three acres from government. This proposal is a joint venture between locals and an international company that has wide experience in the agri-business arena. Hon. Pickering said that he is prepared to take the proposal to Cabinet in the next couple of weeks to get that project off the ground.
Dr. Pickering said that the available lands at Paraquita Bay are part of the plan for the thriving agriculture sector government envisions. In discussing the sprawling lands, the Minister said: “Paraquita Bay as it is right now — what we see is a splendid opportunity to develop our grand vision for agriculture, agri-business… The subsidy that is going to be involved in developing that is that government would provide the land and help to utilize what land is available to form cooperatives, generate business opportunities and take it from there”
He further disclosed that Government will merge the Fisheries Department with the Agriculture Department for better leverage of the sector’s development: “Government is going to fuse the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries into one department because we see the importance of forming a regulatory body to help deal with some of the issues that even just came about.”
The merger Hon. Pickering explained will erase fears of food scarcity and matters of food security.