Govt intends to get farmers back into food production – Ashni Singh

…says rising fuel prices being monitored

Guyana has seen rising commodity prices in recent times, particularly in agricultural produce and fuel. With respect to agricultural produce, Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh cited flooding as one factor and emphasised that the Government intends to get farmers back into production.
On the side lines of an event on Saturday, the Minister said that the price of agricultural commodities is very much market-driven and with the recent flooding caused by months of torrential rainfall, this is something that must be considered.
“Well, it would to the extent that there has been an issue with agricultural output. We have seen what the floods would have done to agricultural output. Without a doubt that would feed into supply of that agricultural output to the market and in turn prices. Also, the price of agricultural produce in Guyana is market determined, based on demand and supply.”
“This in fact is why it is so important for us to get production back up and we have been making this point. Obviously, the farmers want to get back on their feet because this is how they live. There is no farmer anywhere in Guyana that doesn’t want to get back on the land, get his plants back in the ground, get his crops out of the ground, get his animals back up so that he can start producing his milk, eggs or meat,” the Finance Minister said.
For its part, he explained that the Government has been encouraging farmers to return to crop cultivation and livestock rearing as soon as possible. Speaking to the $10 billion in supplementary funds that the Government had sought in June to assist with flooding, the Finance Minister said this will help support flood affected farmers.
“We have been saying to the farmers that we want them to return to crop cultivation and rearing of livestock as soon as possible and this is also going to influence the shape of the support that we provide as well, because we want them and production to get back to the pre flood levels and even ramped up further, because we want to make sure that adequate agricultural produce gets to the market.”

Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh

“Of course, there is a bigger agenda to increase agricultural production beyond just the short-term shock of the floods. There is a bigger agenda and we have to get a bigger agenda to increase the output because agriculture is an important sector for us economically and in terms of our medium- and long-term plans, but I’m not going to speak about that now.”
For now, Singh said that the priority is to get farmers back on their feet, producing and increasing output so that adequate supplies can return to the marketplace and prices and production can return to the pre flood levels.
When it comes to oil prices, the Finance Minister noted that they are monitoring the situation and considering options, including whether to further reduce taxes on fuel. Dr Singh pointed out that soon after the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) took Government last year, it reduced taxes on fuel.
“It is a fact that oil prices have been rising globally. We are monitoring it closely. The reality is that oil prices are a function of the international markets. And so, the cost of landing fuel in Guyana has increased.”
“As you know, a few months ago we took the important step of reducing the taxes on fuel prices significantly. So, we’ve already implemented one very sharp reduction on the excise taxes that are charged on gasoline and diesel. So that has already been implemented,” Minister Singh said.
The Minister stressed, however, that taxes are only a small fraction of the fuel prices. He noted that the underlying reason for the fuel increase is the increase in the Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF) of the fuel, something the Government has little control over.
At present oil is being traded at US$71.45 a barrel, an increase likely caused by the reopening of economies around the world due to COVID-19 restrictions being lifted. It was only a few days ago that the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) called attention to the issue, noting that rising fuel prices have been hitting local businesses hard. (G3)