On 1 July, Minister of Health and Human Services Anthony Eden transferred responsibility for agriculture to Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts.
Both ministers, along with a number of other officials, took the opportunity before the hand over date to tour the department and its facilities and meet with staff, said a GIS press release.
Chief Agricultural and Veterinary Officer Dr. Alfred Benjamin updated the visitors on the renovations to the top floor of the Department’s main office which was substantially damaged during Hurricane Ivan.
Renovations have been ongoing and have included improving the air conditioning, installing a dehumidifying system and increasing ceiling insulation to make the facility more energy efficient.
However, until a specialist conducts indoor air quality tests and obtains satisfactory findings, Dr. Benjamin insists that administrative staff continue working on the ground floor of the building in temporary workspace. Commenting on the challenge, Dr. Benjamin said, ‘I’m proud of our staff, their resilience and commitment to our rebuilding efforts over the last nine months.’
The visiting party also received an update on the progress of the Agricultural Sector Assistance Programme, a $1.6 million package consisting of hands-on technical aid to farmers as well as the disbursement of grants and loans to help with post Ivan recovery of farms that were severely damaged.
Other matters discussed included the funding for the completion of the Abattoir project in budget year 2005/06 and the prioritisation that is to be given to Aquaculture development and to the re-opening of a Farmers Market.
At the conclusion of the tour of the main building, 35 staff assembled at the Agriculture Fairgrounds to listen to a short address from the Ministers.
Expressing thanks for all their work, Minister Eden said, ‘Agriculture plays a pivotal role in the development of the Cayman Islands. I extend a big thank you for all your efforts, especially for the assistance you’ve given to farmers.’
Echoing those sentiments, Mr. Tibbetts said, ‘Agriculture plays a very important role in the development of our society. In the months ahead there is much to be accomplished and I’m asking for your continued commitment.’
Mentioning the closure of the Farmers’ Market he said, ‘While there were problems with the old market we visualize a new facility that will service farmers and local markets and provide a venue for tourism.’
Accompanying the Ministers on the tour were Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Health, Andrea Bryan, MBE, JP; Administrative Officer, Satina Dacosta along with Acting Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Planning, Christine Maltman and the latter Ministry’s Administrative Officer Ms Leyda Nicholson-Coe.