Pres Ali urges more partnerships in agricultural sector

– as Demerara Bank launches Farmer’s Credit Line

With examples of partnerships and consortiums flourishing in the oil and gas sector, President Dr Irfaan Ali believes that partnerships within the agricultural sector are important for Guyana to reach its agricultural targets for local, regional and global markets.

President Dr Irfaan Ali (centre) beside Demerara Bank CEO Pravinchandra Dave, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha and other officials at the launch of the credit line at the bank’s Mahaica, East Coast Demerara (EBD) branch

The President laid out his vision on Monday, during the official launch of Demerara Bank’s Farmers Credit Line. According to the President, there is a long-term benefit to farmers partnering that will not only boost their own revenue but also aid in the Government’s vision to slash the regional food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025.
“When you have access to the $20 million, you can move towards investing in higher capital type farming. Which, in the initial phase is higher, but the long-term benefit brings more revenue. Especially dealing with climate change and all of this,” President Ali explained to the audience.
“So, if you have 20 farmers coming together and you have capital formation of $20 million, we can now have at least five large greenhouses that make your agriculture climate-resilient, increase your productivity by 25 to 30 per cent, give you the opportunity to go in high-value crops. It opens up new opportunities. And this is the direction we have to go if we’re to achieve the types of targets we want to achieve.”
He also noted the importance of looking at technology in agriculture and also a market-oriented approach. According to President Ali, the Government is committed to supporting the farmers in this, as well as the necessary farm-to-market roads, access to more land, and other infrastructure necessary for the agriculture sector.
“While we’re doing, all of this, we’re working on the other fronts to remove the barriers to the market and to trade. Working with the State of Roraima, improving our varieties, improving our yield, and looking at new areas of investment. Wheat, we’re experimenting with wheat.”
“We have to understand that the issue of food production and agriculture is one in which we have to address all the issues. And it’s not only one issue we have to focus on. But for agriculture to be successful, you need a Government responsive to the needs of the sector. Let our track record speak for itself.”
President Ali gave the example of Barbados, where he noted farmers have to pay for irrigation water. According to the President, Guyana itself was heading in that direction under the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government, which increased farming-related fees. According to Ali, his Government is committed to building irrigation-related infrastructure and other support systems for the farmers.
The Farmer’s Credit initiative was described by Demerara Bank Corporate Secretary Chandra Gajraj as a game-changer. Noting the importance of food security, she explained that the bank wanted to play its part in the growth of the agricultural sector, by improving access to capital.
“The recent Agriculture Investment and Expo, is testimony to the critical importance of agriculture, for the sustenance of food security. The target of 25 by 25 is ambitious but doable. And the bank is excited to be a facilitator of achieving the goal of a vibrant and accessible agriculture sector in Guyana.”
She explained that the credit line focuses at this time on the rice sector and will provide structured financing of up to $20 million for farmers’ costs. It was pointed out by her that Demerara Bank’s branches are conveniently situated in areas dominated by rice farming.
It was explained by the bank’s Marketing Manager Christina Correia that they received close to 200 applications for the programme in just three weeks. During Monday’s ceremony, 20 of the approved borrowers received their disbursement letters.