Investors, Agriculture Ministry negotiations must accelerate
Agriculture Minister, Robert Persaud, said that Guyana’s development is tied to a combination of subsistence agriculture and commercial agriculture, “if we are going to truly be the bread basket of the region.”
“Our efforts to engage the local private sector and international investors have been to encourage activities that will expand and consolidate our agricultural diversification drive; namely fruits and vegetables, livestock and aqua-culture as well as value-added or agro processing enterprises.”
He noted that based on Guyana’s existing investment incentive regime; there is an attractive package which investors can tap into.
He referred to the fact that the President had several months ago also alluded to special incentives for activities that will also lead to infrastructural improvement and expansion in relation to large scale agriculture.
According to Persaud, the Ministry of Agriculture has been in active discussion with the local private sector on the possibilities as well as keeping them abreast of the strategic plans for the sector.
“The same is true with potential overseas investors from CARICOM, Brazil and even further afield. Already, we have seen discussions advanced and even the start up of several of these by a number of investors, but the pace has to quicken if we are to fully make full use of the opportunities available.”
He noted also that given CARICOM’s renewed emphasis on agriculture, the strengthening of ties with South American countries and the vision as defined in the Low Carbon Development Strategy, there now beckons a platform for take off investment in large scale agriculture.”
Minister Persaud was expanding on President’s Bharrat Jagdeo’s recent plea to the private sector to engage in large plantation type farming.
The Head of State at the recent certification ceremony for the Ogle International Airport said that if Guyana wanted to position itself as the food basket of the Caribbean, then it is imperative that the nation moves toward what he called a plantation type method of farming.
According to President Jagdeo, the private sector must take up the mantle and invest in farming on a large scale, pointing out that while peasant/subsistence farming was good, the scale of farming in Guyana must be significantly increased.
“I would like to see the private sector partner with the government in large-scale plantation type agriculture in the hinterland.”
He noted that there must be a serious look at how the government and the private sector could structure a deal in order to, “get this project off the ground and that it does not become another dream or something we talk about.”
The president emphasised to the gathering, which included several key members of the private sector, that in order for Guyana to become the much talked about food basket of the Caribbean, then there must be a move toward plantation type farming.
He noted too that there is need for foreign technical expertise to build the logistics including transportation.
He added that there is a need for more money to be spent of research.
The president insisted that there is need for a value added arm to the growing of crops. “That is what it will take to make us the food basket of the Caribbean.”
He noted that, “first we need to do things at scale,” adding that small scale projects are important but, “they are not going to have the transformative impact on our society that we wish.”
According to President Jagdeo, what is also necessary is the sustainability of the programmes, “in tough market conditions and to have that happen we have to improve the productivity and the competitiveness of our product.”