Kaieteur News – There are some persons who do not use frozen imported chicken. They find it tasteless and they are concerned about the excessive use of hormones in the rearing of poultry overseas.
Others cannot stomach any form of frozen chicken – locally- produced or imported. These persons would often go to the market or to poultry outlets and order freshly-plucked chicken.
Both these categories of persons are now going to be concerned about the recent decision of the Government of Guyana to import chicken. The influx of imported chicken means that the local poultry industry has underperformed yet again, and therefore, prices are likely to rise for local production after imported stocks are exhausted.
The recent unannounced decision by the the government of Guyana to allow the importation of frozen chicken from Suriname represents an indictment against Irfaan Ali’s ambitious plans to transform Guyana into a major hub of food security. The importation of frozen chicken not only signals a failure in the plans to achieve self-sufficiency in the face of rising complaints about high food prices and persistent challenges in local food production.
It also exposes the vulnerabilities in the administration’s broader vision for Guyana as a global leader in food production. If Guyana cannot feed itself, how can it even dare to position itself as a global leader in food production.
Guyanese consumers, long burdened by the weight of escalating food prices, find themselves once again at the mercy of imported food, as the government grapples with the consequences of a prolonged period of drought. Despite rhetoric about building climate resilience, Guyana remains in the throes of a food crisis, struggling to produce enough to alleviate the impact of soaring food inflation within its borders.
But the drought can hardly be said to have affected chicken production. Instead we are given the usual excuses about disease and a shortfall in the availability of imported hatching eggs.
This marks the second instance in two years where the PPP/C administration has resorted to importing poultry, leaving local suppliers reeling from unexpected blows. The last foray into poultry imports caught suppliers off-guard, resulting in substantial losses as local production was displaced by imported goods. The recent announcement comes as a surprise, especially considering the government’s imposition of restrictions on chicken imports earlier in the year, ostensibly to curb smuggling.
The decision to import poultry represents a major setback for the Irfaan Ali administration, particularly as poultry was identified as a sector in which Guyana was poised to achieve self-sufficiency. The government had gone so far as to zero-rate the entire industry and had negotiated reduced interest rates on loans to stimulate growth. Plans were underway to expand poultry production into Pakuri Village, formerly known as St Cuthbert’s Village, and with additional support from corporate giants like Exxon to expand hinterland poultry production. However, the recent turn of events highlights a regression in local chicken production and a substantial failure in the administration’s strategies.
Despite efforts to promote the development of a local hatching industry, the government now cites a shortage of imported hatching eggs as the primary reason for the decline in production. This explanation contradicts earlier claims in January of this year of progress towards establishing Guyana’s own hatching industry. The inconsistency in official statements raises questions about the efficacy of the government’s plans and their execution.
The recent decision to import chicken from Suriname not only reflects poorly on the government’s commitment to local production but also jeopardizes Guyana’s aspirations to make significant inroads into the Caribbean poultry market. Previously, the government had envisioned Guyana as a key player in reducing the region’s heavy dependence on extra-regional poultry imports, estimated at a staggering US$150 million annually. However, the reality on the ground paints a different picture—one of unfulfilled promises, misplaced priorities, and a failure to capitalize on regional opportunities.
The current predicament underscores the dangers of the Irfaan Ali administration aligning with the Jagdeo Initiative, a regional strategy that has proven to be a monumental failure. Irfaan Ali’s attempt to resurrect and implement elements of this initiative appears to be fraught with challenges, further diminishing the credibility of his administration’s food security agenda.
The government needs to take swift and decisive action to reassess its strategies, address the shortcomings in local production, and regain the trust of a disillusioned population yearning for a more resilient and food-secure future. The problem with Ali’s plans for the local industry is that they are primarily geared towards benefitting the rich poultry farmers and the Brazilians to whom corn and soya production is being outsourced.
It is time for Ali and his agricultural minister to rethink the strategy for the development of the poultry sector. A return to the old strategy of encouraging small-scale poultry farming may be just the right tonic for the present crisis in the industry.
AUBREY NORTON FRIGHTEN RENEGOTIATION AND RING-FENCING
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