Agri drive remains robust

Dear Editor,
What a big boost it is to learn that “foreign investors (are beginning to) signal interest in (Guyana’s) agriculture sector. The dailies report that “Guyana’s agriculture sector has been receiving significant recognition across the Region, as the country forges ahead with major investments and strategic solutions to reduce the country’s, and by extension, the Region’s food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025.” According to Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha, “… several investors, both foreign and from the Guyanese Diaspora, have signalled a renewed interest in the country’s agriculture sector.” He detailed that “We have a number of investors; more and more people are coming to Guyana to invest … We have a number of persons from the Guyanese Diaspora who want to come and invest in various sectors in agriculture.”
Am I surprised? The answer is an emphatic ‘No’.
Firstly, we need to realise that agriculture is very important in Guyana. In fact, it makes sense to be pre-occupied herein, as Guyana’s vast tracts of productive land present enormous opportunities for growth. And where agriculture is concerned, historically it has been one of the most important productive sectors of Guyana’s economy. As a matter of fact, agriculture accounts for approximately one-third of Guyana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 30 per cent of the country’s employment. Yes, agriculture is for subsistence livelihood, but it must not stop there. We must go the next mile and promote agriculture as a wealth generator and entrepreneurial enterprise, thereby producing food and non-food commodities to meet local and export demands. And this is exactly where the Agri boss is heading, and I ‘tip my hat’ to him.
Not waning in his drive, he still renewed his commitment, as he sourced his ‘extra-push’ from the fillip he got from the May 2020 Agri-Investment Forum and Expo. He explained that this served as a catalyst for investors from Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Israel and other countries. The Minister added that the Israelis expressed their interest in hydroponics, a non-traditional way of growing crops. This in particular, being fairly new to Guyana, “… will see the increase in the number of shade houses used in the production of high-value crops, such as broccoli, carrots and cauliflower at Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara (ECD).”
Editor, I have no reservation about applauding this kind of initiative. It makes me absorb ever deeper what Minister Zulfikar Mustapha said in August 2020, when he was made the head of this important sector. At that time, he alluded to the fact that he was ‘a man who knows agriculture, having been involved in it at the grassroots and practical level’. So confident is the Minister, that his plan is to have another hydroponics farm near the Soesdyke-Linden Highway; this is already underway, and when realised, “… is anticipated to be the largest hydroponics project in Latin America and the Caribbean… (even accommodating) blueberries, strawberries and other exotic crops…”
So, I think we all can agree that we have been getting so far, ‘value for our money’ where agriculture is concerned. Let’s remember that our National Budget 2022 earmarked some $28.7 billion to ensure the rapid growth and development in Guyana’s agriculture sector. So far this is paying great dividends, as the agriculture sector has so far recorded significant growth in the first half of this year. The details show that at mid-year, “… growth in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors expanded by some 10.9 per cent and is expected to grow by 11.9 per cent”. The even bigger picture is that Guyana became the leader in the Caribbean in its food security efforts to lower the high food import bill in the Region and to ensure food security.
I do remind all that “At the 33rd Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of Caricom (Caribbean Community) held back in May, the commitment was that measures will be put into place, towards achieving the ‘25 by 25’ agriculture target, which is to reduce the Region’s US$6 billion food import bill by 25 per cent by the year 2025.
My prognosis is that the goal will be achieved.

Yours truly,
H Singh