Jan 27, 2022 News
By Davina Bagot
Kaieteur News – The Senior Minister in the office of the President, with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh on Wednesday reported to the National Assembly, during his Budget Presentation, that the agriculture sector suffered massive blows in 2021, which he attributed to the devastating floods in the first half of the year.
According to the minister, sugar, rice and other crops all recorded a decline in production. In fact, the forestry and fishing sector suffered the brunt of the flood impacts and is estimated to have contracted by 9.1 percent. “This position is largely on account of reduced output in the sugar growing, rice growing, and other crops subsectors, which outweighed improved performances in the forestry, fishing and livestock subsectors,” the Finance Minister told the National Assembly.
The sugar growing subsector recorded a reduction in its value added by 34.7 percent in 2021 with 58,025 tonnes of sugar produced. This was as a result of some 4,300 hectares of cane being destroyed by inundated fields. In fact, it is estimated that approximately 35 percent of the standing cane for the second crop was lost as a result of the May/June floods. “At Albion Estate alone, it is estimated that the mortality rate for the standing canes planned to be harvested for the first crop was 80 percent. Having worked tirelessly to drain some 4.5 million tonnes of water off the lands, the industry was only able to save some of the surviving cane,” Dr. Singh explained.
Similarly, the record-high rainfall he said also had a severe impact on the rice growing sector, which recorded a reduction in its value added to 20.5 percent, with total paddy production in 2021 amounting to 859,993 tonnes, which resulted in 558,995 tonnes of rice being produced. Consequently, yield amounted to 5.5 tonnes of paddy per hectare.
As it relates to the other crops subsector this area also contracted by 9.8 percent during last year. Dr. Singh noted, “When compared with the output from this industry in 2020, significant declines are observed for many fruits, vegetables, and spices, including papaw, bora, watermelon, sweet peppers, ochro, sweet potatoes, and ginger. Here again, the impact of the flood was sharp and severe. The reduced output of many items under this category was observed in the marketplace and fed through to prices of these and related commodities”.
Livestock, forestry & fisheries sector expands
While still updating the National Assembly on the performance of the agriculture sector, the Finance Minister was happy to report positive figures in the forestry, livestock and a surprising turn for the fisheries sector. According to him, the livestock subsector is estimated to have grown by 9.2 percent in 2021, despite the loss of livestock in the floods. The increase is on account of growth in the production of poultry meat, beef, pork and mutton, which are estimated to have expanded by 16.5 percent, 13.9 percent, 23.6 percent and 21.3 percent, respectively, when compared with 2020 output.
The Minister said, “These more than offset the estimated declines in the production of eggs and milk. The increase in production reflects the growth in demand which followed the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants and other food establishments, combined with high demand in the oil and gas and mining sectors”.
Meanwhile, the forestry sector is estimated to have expanded by 11.3 percent in 2021. According to the latest declarations, timber output grew from 344,179 cubic metres in 2020 to 383,189 cubic metres in 2021, reflecting the high demand as a result of the expansion in construction activity.
Even more surprising however, Minister Singh said that despite the challenges currently being faced by the subsector, fishing is estimated to have grown by 11 percent, having shown signs of recovery in the latter half of 2021 which resulted in some 15.7 percent growth in fish production.
“Notable increases were observed in production across all fish products, with the most significant growth observed for industrial finfish, which grew by 235.4 percent. Undermining the subsector’s overall performance, was a 13.5 percent decline in the production of shrimp, as a result of declines in catches of whitebelly and industrial seabob shrimp. These declines outweighed increased catches of artisanal seabob shrimp and prawns,” the Finance Minister reported.
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