Hon. O'Neal willing to make land available for VG farmers!
Though a fact, Government leaders hastened to encourage farmers to do their best to revive the industry as it is felt that the Virgin Islands can grow sufficient food for home and even for export.
Premier and Minister of Finance Dr the Honourable D. Orlando Smith spoke of his personal experience in farming this year. "I myself am a back yard farmer but this year my crop was very down, I didn't get the regular peas that I am accustomed to getting," and hastened to highlight that in the past the Virgin Islands was the bread basket of agriculture produce for St. Thomas but today it is importing more food and growing very little.
He said Government has been looking at ways of diversfying the economy because of a number of reasons including that of the other sides of tourism and financial services. The Government, he added, is carefully looking at several areas to deal with this, while looking for new areas of enterprises for the development of employment opportunities and other important aspects that would contribute to economic growth.
"More and more we recognise that agriculture can play a more significant part in the economy of the Virgin Island and I think in many ways Virgin Gorda is leading the way in this regard," Hon. Smith remarked.
He noted and applauded the private local enterprises who have been supporting the local farmers by providing market. Those named were Bobby's, Little Dix Bay, Pussers, Road Town Wholesale, Peter Island and a number of smaller entities.
To add his foot into aiding in the reviving the agriculture sector, Representative of the Ninth District and Leader of the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) Hon. Ralph T. O'Neal OBE opened an invitation to anyone wishing small plots of land for farming purpose. "I am not looking for any money but I want to see crops being grown and that can inspire the youths," Hon. O'Neal said.
He said that with farming, its not the hard work but the good reward when the instructions are followed and the use of modern technology to farming, "... And this is what is needed."
According to Hon. O'Neal, there is nothing that can be done to stop the rising cost for food but what can be done is persons can plant their own food and with the help of the Ministry of Agriculture.
In keeping with the theme for this year, Hon. O'Neal challenged the Ministry of education to re-introduce gardening back into the school system, saying it is something worth considering.
Further, he stated that there are lots of unused lands that are available for back yard gardening and even bigger cultivation.
Deputy Chief Agriculture Officer Arona Fahie - Forbes highlighted weaknesses and threats constituting the development agenda that must be addressed. She stated that agriculture in the Virgin Islands has numerous weaknesses, including low productivity, poor coordination and limited capacity, underdeveloped supporting facilities, erosion of the natural resource base, inappropriate technology, dependency on rain fed agriculture, impediments to food market access and low public expenditure levels.
"In order to provide a strategic direction to the agricultural sector, sustain ourselves and secure the future, Fahie- Forbes said that there are six things that should be promoted: The adoption of the draft Agriculture policy; The development of an Agricultural Sector Development Programme; Develop market institutions; Demonstrate the profit making potential of non-traditional value propositions; And reforming existing regulatory structures.
The Virgin Gorda day, in the week long observances of Farmers' Week 2013, saw the widest arrangement of farm products and produces, poultry and livestock and handicraft.