Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Deputy Premier Hon. Natalio 'Sowande' Wheatley told farmers and fisherfolk gathered at the Sir Olva Georges Plaza in Road Town on Saturday, October 16 that the Food Security & Sustainability Bill has moved one step closer to becoming a reality.
He said once passed, the Bill will pave the way for Virgin Islands Agriculture and Fisheries Marketing Authority that will greatly benefit farmers and fisherfolk in the territory.
“Since my appointment as a minister I have advocated for a stronger legislative framework to govern the agriculture and fisheries sector. In fact some aspects of our legislation are around 100 years old; that is why I have been pushing hard for the Food Security and Sustainability Bill,” he remarked at the event in observance of World Food Day.
He informed that last year various stakeholder consultations were held on the draft Bill, and they were able to make recommendations for improving the Bill based on the feedback received.
“I am pleased that we recently obtained the revised draft of the Bill from the Attorney General’s Chambers, and we are now aiming to submit it to Cabinet in the coming weeks and then to the House of Assembly,” he said.
The minister said among the main aims of the aforementioned Bill is the establishment of an effective mechanism to promote food security and sustainability in the territory through the Virgin Islands
Agriculture and Fisheries Marketing Authority.
“We expect that the Authority will have great flexibility than the department and will be able to purchase directly from farmers and fishers so that farmers and fishers can focus more on what they do best – farm and fish. If the quality of the products will be to the Authority’s standards, you will have a guaranteed market for your produce.”
He further mentioned that the Bill is comprehensive and will also include standards for both sectors to get approved for the quality of what is being produced and sold in the territory.
On the topic of World Food Day, he said it was an opportunity for the department to further encourage attention to food production and harvest by farmers, fishers and the wider community to stimulate a national effort to strengthen food security.
The event is being held under the theme: Our actions are our future, better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life.