Exposing our level of self sufficiency
The fickle nature of the economy has always been exposed despite comments by the government that the economy is robust and booming and far healthier than it has ever been. Inflation is not as rampant as it ever was a few years ago but it is still rampant as is evident in the constant rise in commodities in the marketplace.
It is true that those things cultivated in Guyana are stable unless affected by the seasonal conditions but many things, particularly those imported are expiring an inexorable rise in cost. These things make one realize that the currency is steadily being devalued.
This is not price gouging that we experience at Christmas time. At Christmas time, despite the situation of glut egg prices soar by as much as two hundred per cent. Some of the meats also cost more than they would normally. The society has come to expect these skyrocketing prices and the residents often make the adjustment.
The Christmas season is long gone but we find that certain meat prices remain high. For example, the much touted increased pork production is not reflected in the marketplace with the result that the price of pork has gone through the roof. But this situation is even worse with poultry.
Guyana with less than a million people was once said to be self sufficient in chicken to the point that local poultry producers were talking about exporting poultry to neighbouring Suriname and to the other Caribbean countries.
In fact, the New Guyana Marketing Corporation proudly proclaimed that there was ample chicken. This was a signal turnaround from the days when chicken meat was considered a luxury, when Guyana imported large quantities, when the imported chicken was rationed.
The local poultry producers moved to develop their industry with assurances from the government that the market would be protected. Protection came in the form of subsidized feeds and further subsidies or tax exemption on the imported aspects such as hatching eggs.
But there was a concomitant responsibility. The government insisted that the producers maintain an affordable price failing which the subsidies could be removed. Today the price of poultry meat is twice what it was a year ago. The excuse is that the boom in the goldfields is the cause.
Assuming that one-tenth of the population has shifted to the goldfields, that amounts to 70,000 people. Assuming that all they eat is chicken, which is not unusual for every household in Guyana, surely the volume of chicken could not have decreased by the volume it has. Something must be horribly wrong.
It could be that because of the remoteness of the gold fields people are pickling the chicken meat in the same way they once pickled beef and pork. Surely, the pickle industry that supports the hinterland would not pickle fifty per cent of the chicken produced in Guyana.
But then again the goldfields are home to more than Guyanese. There are the Brazilians and other foreigners. The chicken shortage that is now affecting coastal Guyana is an indication of the number of foreigners in the hinterland.
It is also an indication that Guyana was never in a position to export chicken unless the exporters are making a hash of the Guyana Revenue Authority and its close watch on tax revenue. In short, chicken may be smuggled out of Guyana.
But that aside, Guyana’s production levels are not what we believe them to be. We have produced sugar but still had to import the commodity; we have had rice shortages although we are a rice-producing nation and we have been unable to satisfy export orders for green vegetables although we are supposed to be producing more vegetables than we can consume.
The time has come for us to stop believing that we can be the breadbasket of the region. We have spent millions of dollars to support the farming industry and we have indeed exported large quantities but this current shortage exposes our limited production ability.