In April 2022, the House of Assembly passed a comprehensive law designed to reform the management of farming and fishing in the territory with measures including a new statutory body to oversee the sectors.
Almost two years later, the law still has not been enacted because the government is awaiting regulations to support it, according to Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley.
Dr. Wheatley told the HOA on Oct. 31 that the government had engaged a consultant to help develop those regulations and to determine the best way to carry out the sweeping reorganisation mandated by the Virgin Islands Food Security and Sustainability Act 2022, which received the governor’s assent in July 2022.
That consultant, he said, will also advise on setting up and financing the VI Agriculture and Fisheries Authority as well as the complementary Agriculture and Fisheries Management Unit.
“We also desire to constitute the board of the Agriculture and Fisheries Authority in 2024, and advertisements seeking applications for the board will be published by the end of this year,” he said.
The authority would be the main entity carrying out the provisions of the 2022 act, which consolidates, updates and overhauls various related laws dating back as far as 100 years.
Under the act, it would have more autonomy than the existing Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, legislators said when the bill was up for debate.
The complementary management unit would provide policy advice on ensuring the growth of the industries.
As minister for agriculture and fisheries, Dr. Wheatley is responsible for bringing the law into force. The act also empowers the authority to “develop a corporation model” for an agriculture and fisheries complex.
But even without the authority in place, work to set up a complex is already under way, Dr. Wheatley said.
“The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change is working closely with the Recovery and Development Agency on developing the agriculture and fisheries complex at Paraquita Bay to store, process and sell local produce and fish,” he said on Oct. 31.
Dr. Wheatley added that staff from the existing Department of Agriculture and Fisheries are also currently assessing landing sites for fishers throughout the territory.
“The establishment of these sites will ensure that fishers have clean and dedicated spaces on the coastline for landing and light fish processing,” he said. “The fish landing sites will serve as satellite facilities for the central processing facility at Paraquita Bay.”
On agriculture, Dr. Wheatley added, “Development works are under way to install a large water storage tank to support productive farming in Paraquita Bay.”
He also said the government is continuing to promote opportunities for people to get involved in the farming industry.
Meanwhile, he added, H. Lavity Stoutt Community College is making plans to offer agriculture workshops this month.