Guyana is not only about oil and gas

Dear Editor,
Good news, but not at all surprising. I am speaking here of the fact that “There is “renewed interest” in Guyana’s agri sector,” and this is not only the word of Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha, it is quite evident to any candid observer and follower of happenings in Guyana. This really bodes well for the country, and I have good reasons for saying this.
Fur sure, this “renewed interest” shows that Guyana is not ‘hell-bent’ on oil and gas exclusively, as some want people to believe. No doubt, Guyana is heading towards becoming a top brass when it comes to the oil industry, but the country has a lot of prospects in other sectors, namely agriculture, that are complementing its fast-paced development. The Guyanese Government is right at the forefront of this momentous undertaking, thus increasing the confidence level among local and international investors to start their business in the country. Just a bit on agriculture, and where Guyana sits.
The Guyana land mass in total is 215,000 square kilometres and it is far from the path of typhoons, and its tropical climate and topography, endowed with fertile soils can produce varied crops that are not found in countries that have a cooler climate. It is no surprise why the country is known to be food secure with high sufficiency in producing crops and meat. That is why the agriculture sector is a major export earner, contributing around 16 per cent to the country’s GDP in 2020 alone and accounts for the importation of $1.8 billion of dairy products annually. This is divine – a real haven that all Guyanese can and must benefit from.
So, it is great that in terms of the potential of the agriculture industry, the Government is strongly supportive in ensuring that agriculture be among its top priority, and thus leading to a diversified economy.
The potential is huge – Guyana’s agriculture sector offers possible investments in abattoirs and packing houses, canning and packing of fruits and vegetables, cattle ranching, corn and soya bean production, dairy operation and products, integrated farms, meat processing, organic farms, pig and poultry rearing, roses production, seafood and fish processing, and value-added coconut processing.
So, yes, it is true that the magnitude of Guyana’s booming oil industry is garnering more attention and investment opportunities each day, but agriculture is also stepping up as another industry of interest in the region. Let us go to the Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, who has emerged as quite a pioneer.
He just met with residents of Crabwood Creek, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) and shared that the sector is beginning to make waves again, with potential for continued economic growth even after oil resources are depleted. He stated that “We have seen a renewed interest in our agriculture sector. We are an oil and gas producing country. ‘Oil and gas’ is taking the attention in the country and investors. (but) I think agriculture is also taking the attention and making waves in this part of the world. This shows our Government’s commitment towards this sector, because we recognise its importance to our country’s development.”
Just embrace these – cash crops have been expanded in recent months but non-traditional crops were also undertaken; high-value crops like broccoli, cauliflower and carrot are to be cultivated this year with the construction of 300 shade houses; and corn and soya cultivation had set out an aim to expand to 3000 acres this year and 25,000 within three years. I can go on, but I will just remind readers about the origin of all of this.
Back in January of this year, the Government set aside over $28.7 billion towards the rapid growth and development in Guyana’s agriculture sector. According to Dr Ashni Singh, Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for finance, the Government wants to ramp up domestic production, agro-processing capabilities and work to remove historic barriers and impediments to intra-regional trade. This, he detailed, has a great ending, that is, “Then we can be self-sufficient to produce our own feed because we want to develop the livestock sector too. As a country, we are looking at different ways to reduce the food import bill and you in the agriculture sector, have that important role to play to help us to develop this sector and have food security.” Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha summed it up real nicely, saying that “We are moving on. We are not only stagnated in one type of crops. We are consolidating, expanding and ensuring that there is more yield per acre in the crops that are planted.” For example, in Region Six, yield for rice has increased to 6.5 tonnes per acre from 2.6 tonnes per acre. Some 65,000 acres are cultivated but authorities are actively seeking to open more lands.
Commendations are indeed in order for the principals in the agriculture sector – I see industriousness, innovation and intensity of efforts.

Yours truly,
H Singh