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Efforts being made to properly regularise local fishers and farmers

Efforts being made to properly regularise local fishers and farmers

Agriculture Minister Dr Natalio Wheatley said there are ongoing efforts to register and license all commercial fishers and farmers in the territory.
According to Dr Wheatley, traditionally, the existing register has not properly represented commercial fishing or farming in the BVI.

While speaking in the House of Assembly on Monday, he said the government will also introduce “a proper agricultural and fisheries census”.

The census will form part of what the Agriculture Minister described as the Virgin Islands Food Security & Sustainability bill, which is to be submitted to the Cabinet for approval.

The minister explained that the bill will seek to establish an effective mechanism to create a well-regulated regime for food security and sustainability in the territory.

He said the government has already injected millions into the sector which has assisted fishers and farmers to get on their feet after the 2017 hurricanes and during the ongoing health pandemic.

The minister also noted that government has established a dedicated source of funding for the sector in the seven percent money services tax, which has so far pumped $1.4 million into agriculture and fisheries locally.

He said this will greatly assist in establishing infrastructure and programmes for the advancement of the sector.

These announcements from the minister come amid heavy public scrutiny towards government since they distributed more than $6 million in stimulus assistance grants into the sector last year.

Government’s internal auditor as well as the Office of the Auditor General both criticised the distribution of those grants. The distribution, which has raised serious concerns, has formed part of matters for which the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (COI) is investigating.

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