President Granger recently appealed for a revival of the village economies. This might well be the opportunity to return the people to the soil, to dis-alienate them from their birthright. It is man’s proximity to the land from whence derives all moral values, honesty and the sweetness of one’s own sweat. This might well be the means to return the pride of local artisanship for which many villages were once noted.
Financing of development plan -now, the imperialist banks or countries may not want to lend us the money to embark on this Plan. How do we raise funds? Simply by selling Agriculture Development Bonds to the three-quarter million overseas Guyanese (as well as local investors). I have no doubt that just as they repatriate US$100 million annually to Guyana without expecting any returns, they would gladly invest in these bonds that promise and guarantee good interest. Thousands of Guyanese are yearning to re-migrate and invest in agriculture in Guyana. We must return to basics. Food production is about the survival and future of mankind. Few countries have such an opportunity to start over, and convert what appears to be a failed industry into a powerful instrument of transformation of the economy.
We cannot continue with sugar in its current scale of operation. According to Professor Clive Thomas, “Several contributory factors are responsible for the present situation of the cane sugar industry in Guyana, and for that matter worldwide. Here, I would stress two: 1) the emergence of sugar extraction from other plant sources (particularly beet) and 2) the growth of a wide range of substitutes for sugar, both caloric (particularly high-fructose corn syrup) and non-caloric (particularly artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Equal). Importantly, these alternate sweeteners have found wide acceptance among consumers everywhere”. A further factor to consider is that there are a significant number of super-scale sugar producers, which have emerged internationally.
These super-scale producers are positioned to bypass the cultivable land constraint, which physically limits the volume of cane sugar production in countries as small as Guyana. In the above sense therefore, searching for economies of scale in sugar production in Guyana at levels of output well below half-a-million metric tonnes annually, would be elusive. It reveals the basic illogic underlying the US$185 million plus Skeldon Sugar Modernization Project (SSMP). Given the global configuration of the leading competitive sugar producers as presented in the Schedule above, even in the best of circumstances the gains from economies of scale at an output of 450,000 tonnes annually would be marginal on a global scale. There is no real hope for Guyana becoming again a competitive global exporter, given the present demand and supply structure of the world sugar market.”
To continue with sugar, Guyana must depend as it has been for over fifty years, on the preferential treatment doled out by the European market. Unfortunately, this is coming to an end. For, as since November 2005 the European Union announced a set of measures to reform the EU sugar regime. Basically and clearly it meant the end of EU importation of cane sugar as a primary product from African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries.
The EU generously gave these countries ample forewarning and a four-year grace period to “fix” their houses during which time the EU preferential price for ACP sugar would decline substantially, but with certain compensations to help these countries withstand the economic shock and re-structure their sugar industries. Unfortunately, many of these countries, Guyana in particular, did not take this seriously.
Now is perhaps the final opportunity. I truly believe if we seriously embark on this transformation, it will succeed. After all, the world’s demand for food is always increasing, and which other country, devoid of natural disasters possesses such potentials for food production? Either the government starts organizing the people to return to the land whence all true wealth, moral values, physical strength and spiritual fulfillment originate, or we continue to hemorrhage our population through migration, suicide, murder, road carnage, cancer, AIDS and other maladies of modernization.
To this extent I have personally devised a plan and submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Business. to start a diversified farm.
My plan is to obtain, hopefully, through leasing, a fifteen-acre portion of land, which I have already identified at Wales, and to establish a model, self-sustainable farm, producing organic meat, fish, eggs, vegetables and fruits The farm will produce 90 percent of its energy requirement, utilizing solar, wind and bio-gas. All vegetable and animal products will be 90 percent organic. The model farm will be advertised as a tourist attraction and also shown to all local and foreign farmers who are interested in eco self-sustainable farming. I project this farm will be self-sustaining from year two of operation, and by year four will be earning about $170,000 US per year.
Imagine, a thousand such farms. You may call me a dreamer as John Lennon sang; but let’s face it; either we embark on revolutionary changes in Guysuco, or face the stark reality of massive lay-offs, crime, migration, and possible economic regression. I think we can make Guyana the Food Basin of the Caribbean.
Gokarran David Sukhdeo
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