Investment, infrastructure, information and innovation are key to the future growth of the agriculture sector in Guyana. Infrastructure is a key factor in agricultural development. Infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, will facilitate greater access, by our farmers to inputs. It will allow them, also, to get their production more easily and quickly to the markets. The roads are a means to stimulate the rural non-farm economy, catalyze the development of communities, and facilitate the integration of rural areas into national economies.
Farmers in some regions have long suffered from poor prices for their produce. Farmers must not be satisfied with solely producing for the local markets. The expansion of their production depends on finding new markets, including export markets.
Farmers need information to be able to penetrate into these markets.
Guyana’s agricultural sector must become more resilient. It must reduce its exposure to commodity price downturns. The agricultural sector must lead the revival of rural Guyana by ensuring that production moves up the value chain through increased agro-processing.
The processing of agricultural produce will also help farmers to reduce the present high levels of spoilage. Farmers must not be discouraged by the past experiences at moving up the value chain.
The Coalition government recognizes the continued importance of agriculture to the economy post petroleum production. It is also noteworthy that that Guyana is in a unique position to take advantage of the need for food and fresh water in the coming decades.
The growth of the world’s population along with increased urbanization is expected to increase the demand for agricultural produce by some 70 percent in the next thirty years.
The ability of many countries to meet this demand will be affected by climate change. The global phenomenon of climate change is resulting in increased desertification and the depletion of freshwater supplies.
Guyana’s abundance of land and freshwater supplies for agricultural purposes places it in an enviable position to take advantage of the increased demand for food globally.
The United Nations projected last year that the world’s population would reach 9.6 billion by 2050. A large portion of the increased food demand in decades ahead is projected to result from rising appetites for meat; several pounds of grain are needed to grow each pound of meat.There will also be a greater demand for fresh water, fresh fruit and vegetables.
In order to take advantage of these challenges, Guyana has already begun the process of reorganizing the management of the sugar, rice coconut livestock and other crops in appropriately designed organizational structures that project images of credibility to counterparts; and assurance of quality products and services to clients and farmers. The government continues to advocate the importance of agro-processing and value-added over the production and marketing of primary commodities.
The goal is to create a flexible broad-based, integrated, innovative and environmentally sensitive agriculture sector to satisfy the demands of domestic, regional and international competitive markets.
Already we see the establishment of programmes like the Sustainable Livelihood and Entrepreneurial Development (SLED) for technical and financial support; improved land tenure arrangements; programmes geared to meaningfully involve our youth and women in the sector; and disseminate knowledge and skills to agricultural, farmers and other community organisations and individuals through extension services.
Looking into the future, President Granger has articulated that revenues from the petroleum sector will be used to further develop and modernize our agricultural sector. There will be the creation of sustainable enterprises, through the application of cost-effective management of traditional and modern technologies, in order to increase volumes and quality of diversified produce. And also, there will be implementation of capacity building, through the setting-up of Regional Agricultural Institutes and research centres, along with continued investment in infrastructure, information and innovation.
Taking our geography into consideration, intensive and urgent action will be necessary to rehabilitate/expand, as necessary, current drainage and irrigation deficiencies. Infrastructure investment in roads, bridges and airdromes will significantly improve access to markets. Creative promotion and packaging of produce and the imaginative packaging of Guyana, will help to show us a serious ‘Agriculture’ player.
In an address at Parika, Essequibo Islands-West Demerara Region last year, President David Granger laid out the challenge to farmers all across the country when he said; “Opportunities for increased agricultural markets exist within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The Region’s agriculture’s sector share of Gross Development Product (GDP) declined from 13 percent to 7 percent, over the last 25 years.
International food prices have been declining for the major traded agricultural products and are at the lowest levels since 2009. The food import bill of CARICOM has been rising and stands, today, at over US$4 Billion annually.
CARICOM’s food insecurity must be reversed if the Caribbean is to survive. Guyana’s farmers can contribute to regional food security by increasing agricultural output. Caribbean leaders are looking to Guyana as the new horizon for agricultural development”.
Guyana can play a meaningful role in becoming the rice bowl and vegetable basket of the Caribbean. Guyana under an APNU+AFC administration will play such a role through investment, infrastructure, information and innovation in agriculture. The future beyond Oil and Gas is agriculture. So not only must we grow more food, we must now grow more people interested in growing more food.
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