Govt sticking to its agri-drive and with good reasons

Dear Editor,
I am happy that our country is not oil-crazy, as some are contending. The word from Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo is that even “…as Guyana leads the food security agenda in the Caribbean, simultaneous efforts are being made at bolstering the country’s agricultural sector, especially for the benefit of hinterland communities.”
Let me forthrightly state that agriculture overall is very important around the world. It helps to reduce poverty, raise incomes, and improve food security for 80% of the world’s poor, who live in rural areas and work mainly in farming. So vital is agriculture that the World Bank Group continues to be a leading financier of agriculture.
In line with the Vice President’s words, and going back to October last year, the President himself, Dr. Irfaan Ali, boldly stated, “Agriculture is, and will remain, a mainstay of our economy. Indeed, the sector already accounts for almost a quarter of the country’s non-oil Gross Domestic Product. One in every eight members of our employed workforce is to be found in the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries sectors, and agriculture is the principal source of livelihood for thousands of Guyanese households.”
I recall also his 2022 Agriculture Month message, which repeated this mindset, explaining that “the Government is “unfazed” by the food security challenges… (as) it is committed to, and confident in its ability to address, the vulnerabilities in the country’s agri-food system, such as the adverse impact of climate change, exogenous market shocks, and higher input costs.” Why? Simply because “Government has made interventions to support our farmers and fishers, and moderate food inflation.”
This brings me back to the VP, who detailed that “In light of the oil boom and countless opportunities for the coast, the Government is taking bold steps to propel agriculture in the hinterland in ensuring that these communities benefit from national development.”
This shows that the country has leaders with acumen and foresight in terms of holistic management of the country’s resources. Indeed, no one and nothing will be left to chance. This balanced approach and total capitalisation of the country’s wealth will eventuate into our remote communities not being disenfranchised in benefitting from oil.
According to Jagdeo, and rightly so, the style and implementation in terms of maximising from oil and the land is that, since “Those (remote) communities can’t do much with oil and gas…we have to push agri-investment, so that the people who live in these regions are not left behind in the remote regions of the country. We want all of our people to move forward in every region.”
Editor, for sure, the oil boom is creating “…countless opportunities for the coast, (and so) the Government is (justified in) taking bold steps to propel agriculture in the hinterland, in ensuring that these communities benefit from national development.” This encapsulates the ‘no one left behind’ principle, which is so vital if we are talking about lifting the standards for all Guyanese.
For example, as was revealed in the press, In Region One (Barima-Waini), a nursery is being considered to produce plantain ‘suckers’ after residents have complained of the high costs for one sprout.” And the picture is quite elaborate. “The Government is prepared to put the investment in, even co-investing in processing facilities with businesses.” Of course, this is not going to be overnight, and it is contingent upon quantity and quality of production.
If all goes well, we are talking about “…looking to establish a major nursery there, and so the Ministry of Agriculture will go there and see if we can upgrade certification, so our products can sail directly into the Caribbean from these areas, without having to come to the coast”.
Let me remind readers that, in terms of the agriculture sector, the Government is fostering discussions with foreign counterparts. In the case of India, huge potential lies in the area of spices, and doubling rice and sugar output. During the last budget debates, it was propounded that greater emphasis will be placed on the cultivation of high-value crops: corn, soya bean and wheat, since the agriculture sector is bent on reducing Guyana’s and the Caribbean’s food-import bill by 25 per cent by 2025.
So far, Guyana is on the right trajectory to be successful.

HB Singh