The Government has left no one behind since taking office

Dear Editor,
World Food Day was celebrated on October 16, 2022, in more than 150 countries worldwide to commemorate the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and this year there is a resounding plea to all to “Leave No One Behind” through “Better Production, Better Nutrition, a Better Environment and a Better Life”. This Government and the Ministry of Agriculture have proactively implemented this thrust for improved food and nutrition security both locally and regionally since it took Office in August 2020.
This Government has worked diligently and endured a sleepless night to resolve the plethora of debilitating issues which have threatened to annihilate the agriculture sector. What would have happened to this sector if the coalition had managed to successfully rig the 2020 Elections and remained in power? The answer is obvious. The coalition had been mercilessly slashing the agriculture budget since they took office and displayed complete disdain to this sector which they perceived at the PPP support base. Apart from the insane and malicious budget cuts they taxed the sector with increased land rent and VAT on machinery and related supplies. With the windfall from oil, the short-sighted coalition saw no need for agriculture.
Agriculture crops are always invariably affected by adverse weather conditions and the recent floods, four in all in 2021 and 2022, have devastated and almost wiped-out crops such as sugar but timely intervention by the Minister of Agriculture and his Government and deployment of much-needed resources have rescued the sector. The Minister of Agriculture and all the other Ministers, including the President and the Vice President visited all the affected areas and provided on-the-spot reliefs. Never has this massive scale of Government intervention ever taken place in Guyana. The Government spent billions of dollars on drainage and infrastructure, roads, cash grants and relief, subsidies and free distribution of seeds, plants, chemicals and fertilisers.
Today, the sector has fully recovered with production in traditional and non-traditional crops increasing rapidly and sugar production increasing at an enormous rate. It must be mentioned that the entire world was engulfed in the COVID-19 pandemic for the past 3 years but this Government has overcome this as well. Moreover, the Minister is convinced that the sugar industry will achieve 100,000 tons in the next 3 years. Thanks to this Government’s tenacity and persistence.
Today, also our regional leaders have full confidence in the ability of our agriculture sector to drive the food security of the Region. Minister Mustapha stated in his address on World Food Day that Guyana is well positioned to become the bread basket of the Caribbean.
In order to make this a reality, this Government has implemented both short and long-term policies and made increased budgetary allocations to ensure not only the survival but the continued progress of the sector. The Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha emphasised the fact at Albion when he stated that the Government has worked above and beyond to strategically place Guyana on the road that leads to the realisation of ‘Vision 25’ which is aimed at reducing the Region’s food import bill by 2025. The Minister never looked at things in isolation, he stressed that in fulfilling this Vision there will be sustainable employment opportunities for youths, women and other vulnerable groups and he even went further when he said that it is not only about increasing food production but making food accessible and affordable and to improve the nutrition of all Guyanese, leaving no one behind. This encapsulates the very theme of World Food Day and quite remarkably the very objectives which the Government has been vigorously pursuing for the past 2 years and even before the advent of the coalition.
The FAO Director General in his World Food Day message spoke about the “need to empower the most vulnerable, including small scale producers and improve access to training, incentives, science, data, technology and innovation so that small scale holders can be at the centre of this transformation”. This is exactly what Minister Mustapha has been emphasising since 2020. He realised that small-scale farmers have a major role to play in the transformation of the agriculture sector and he must be applauded for his keen perception and wisdom of what is required.
Yours sincerely,
Haseef Yusuf