Home Letters Progress made so far in agri-sector (Part 1)
Permit me a few lines to respond to a letter to the editor titled ‘Ad hoc activities in Agriculture can’t quite cut it’, which was published on Monday, February 8, 2021.
I’ve noticed that, within the last ten days, this was the second letter written by Mr Haresh Singh Kumar criticising the Honourable Zulfikar Mustapha and the sector’s performance. After reading both letters, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the progress made thus far in the sector.
Since the Honourable Minister took office in August 2020, the renewed interest seen in the sector has been quite evident. This is due to the Minister’s timely response to dealing with the issues our farmers have been facing for several years.
Even these acts have been criticised, but, Mr. Editor, were these interventions not warranted? Was the Minister expected to jump in and impose policies without first dealing with the needs of the farmers? You cannot build a sector without a solid foundation.
The fact of the matter remains that our farmers needed urgent help. If you speak with farmers from any of the communities that the Minister visited since taking office, you will see the impact that these interventions have had on their daily operations.
The writer’s first letter stated that “there are a lot of Public Relations stunts but no real private investment in agriculture or any sector of the economy.” Mr. Editor, before any deals are signed or investments made in the agriculture sector, due diligence has to be done. As Minister of Agriculture, Minister Mustapha’s main objective when it comes to investments in the sector is to ensure Guyanese benefit. So, forgive the Honourable Minister if deals are not being signed fast enough for the writer, but all investment deals presented to any Minister of Government have to be in accordance with the Government’s “Promise for Prosperity”.
It is not the Government’s intention for Guyana to be known in the near and distant future as “a country so desperate for investment that it entered into several bad investment deals”. The Guyana Office for Investment and the American Chamber of Commerce were also engaged to assist with the investment process for the sector. Furthermore, many international investors have signalled their interest in the sector.
During a recent visit by an investment team from Dubai, one of the wealthiest cities in the world, a wide range of opportunities, particularly those in the agricultural sector, were discussed. Minister Mustapha made several presentations on rice, sugar, dairy, and livestock, and the two nations are now in talks to move forward with a number of projects in this regard.
The writer seems to be oblivious to many things happening in the sector. Minister Mustapha has been speaking about Government’s plans for the rice, sugar, cash and non-traditional crops, and livestock sector.
Since taking office, Minister Mustapha has signalled his intention to double rice production by 2025. Last October, the Guyana Rice Development Board released the GRDB16. This new variety, with good management practices, can produce 55 to 60 bags of paddy per hectare, which is 20 bags more than other popular varieties. Only last week, Minister Mustapha conducted a field visit to the Burma Rice Research Station, where the GRDB, in collaboration with the Inter-American Institute for Corporation on Agriculture (IICA), has a demonstration plot under cultivation for bio-fortified rice, which is rich in zinc and other essential vitamins and minerals.
The Minister is also working aggressively on a comprehensive plan to develop the second phase of the Mahaica-Mahaicony-Abary Agriculture Development Authority (MMA-ADA) Scheme. Plans are also being crafted to develop the Aurora Land Development Project and other prime agricultural lands in regions Three and Six. Once these lands come under cultivation, rice production, and agriculture production in general, would increase tremendously. Livestock farmers would also benefit from the development of these lands through the establishment of pastures and regulated zoning for the cultivation of rice and cattle rearing.