No one has yet found it bizarre that the President of Guyana plans to propose that the Brazilian State of Roraima be represented on the Ministerial Task Force established by CARICOM on food security. While, however, the proposal may be bizarre, it is not entirely irrational.
Demerara Waves has reported President Ali as saying last Saturday that Brazil’s Roraima State would be applying to be part of the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) agriculture task force with the aim of producing grains for supply to the region.
But there is quid pro quo – something for something. It was also reported that in return Roraima State was offering technology, investment and partnership to Guyana.
This is the first time in the history of the Caribbean Community that such a proposal has been made. It is unheard of in the history of the regional integration movement for an extra-regional state to be represented in a Ministerial Task Force.
And why would Guyana’s President make such an unusual and unprecedented request? It is not at all illogical.
This proposal being put to CARICOM puts a whole new complexion on Guyana’s food security plans. It is now clear that Brazil is at the centre of Guyana’s plans to increase food production.
One possible conclusion which can be drawn from this proposal is that Brazil is really directing Guyana’s food security thrust. And it is Brazil which is likely to benefit more from the dismantling of non-tariff barriers by CARICOM states.
When the PPP/C returned to office in August 2020, one of the first things it announced in its Budget was that it was going to zero-rate the poultry sector. What this means is that everything which has to be imported for use within the poultry sector will henceforth be duty free?
We were also told that Guyana was going to expand soya and corn production. As is well-known, these are major inputs into the poultry sector. It is also known that a consortium of local poultry producers conducted trials on growing soya.
The government had said that it wanted to be self-sufficient in the production of poultry feed. And the 115 acres dedicated to the growing of soya on a trial basis was intended to test whether it was viable to grow poultry. From all accounts it has been a success.
But Guyana is not going to be a major player in soya production. Brazil is already the largest soya producer in the world and it is looking for more acreage to cultivate since there is a growing demand for the oilseed internationally.
Brazil is already under pressure from environmentalists over the clearing of forested lands for agriculture. And given that Brazil plans to continue to expand production, that country will need suitable lands for this purpose. What better place than Guyana’s Intermediate Savannahs which are underutilised.
Brazilian investors, particularly those from the Northern State of Roraima, have long eyed Guyana’s land for expanding soya and corn production. Under both the previous PPP/C administration and under the APNU+AFC, the Brazilians have expressed an interest in establishing mega farms in Guyana.
So what are we to believe? Are we to believe that Guyana is going to become self-sufficient on soya and corn production used in feedstock? And are we also to believe that while soya and corn are going to be grown on Guyanese soil, that it will be the Brazilians which will be dominating the production?
In other words, is Guyana outsourcing its food security? And is all the hype about food security really a way of encouraging Brazilians to engage in large scale agricultural production in the Intermediate savannahs.
It is therefore not beyond the realm of the possible for rich and powerful interests in Brazil to be behind this proposal to have the State of Roraima represented in the Ministerial Task Force. It is more than a possibility; it may well be that the Brazilians are seeking guarantees either on special access to CARICOM’s market or on forcing the dismantling of non-tariff barriers for soya and corn.
Why would CARICOM, however, open its markets to Brazilian grains? What benefit will accrue to CARICOM? Guyana it is said will benefit from technology. Guyana is therefore being used to facilitate Brazilian grains into CARICOM.
But more fundamental is the issue as to how strategic is a plan to outsource food security? Is this not a contradiction in terms? How can a nation be food secure when it is dependent on an external country for the expansion of corn and soya production?
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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