Guyana must take its rightful place as agriculture powerhouse
-Gov’t upgrading agri infrastructure
-creating enabling environment for investment
Guyana’s potential to become the breadbasket of the Caribbean has been touted for several decades, but the PPP/C Government is determined to take every necessary step to fully realise the agriculture sector’s potential.
Despite the emergence of the petroleum sector, which brings tremendous prospects for Guyana’s economic development, the Government plans to invest in all sectors to ensure the country has a fully diversified export base.
Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Hon. Dr. Ashni Singh made this clear when the Government officially turned the sod for the construction of a $327 million, five-kilometre all-purpose road at Onverwagt, West Coast Berbice.
While speaking to beneficiaries of the project, Dr. Singh said construction of the road is part of a wider Government agenda to accelerate development.
“Our intention is that Guyana must take its rightful place as an agricultural powerhouse in this Region. That is our plan for Guyana. We must not only be famous and well known for the fact that we are a large oil and gas producer, we must also be well known for the fact that we are finally realising our potential that has been spoken of for generations. We are finally realising our potential to be the breadbasket of the Caribbean and a major supplier of food products throughout the hemisphere and beyond,” Dr. Singh said.
The Minister said worldwide there are many oil-producing countries that were not able to translate oil production into broad-based prosperity, but the Government of Guyana will do everything to avoid this. One way of doing this is by ensuring that all sectors are developed to avoid a total dependence on oil revenues.
“If you look across the global landscape you will see many countries where oil is produced and where you have a booming oil sector but where the rest of the economy or uncompetitive or in a state of complete collapse.
“I want to say definitively that President Irfaan Ali’s Government, the Peoples Progressive Party government has always, long before we became an oil producing country, we have always emphasised the paramount importance of ensuring that we have a widely diversified economy that is not vulnerable and that is not exposed to any one sector,” Dr. Singh said.
The Minister said thisposition is not new to the PPP/C as it has embraced this guideline during its previous terms in office and reiterated them in its 2020 manifesto.
“On the basis of the commitment we give to the people of this country, in our manifesto we will ensure that the Guyanese economy is widely diversified and never finds itself in a situation where it is solely dependent on or solely exposed to oil and gas,” he said.
Dr. Singh noted that President Ali has mandated the Ministers of Government to ensure that every productive sector of the economy realises a dramatic and rapid transformation “so that we see a booming non-oil economy.”
Other aspects of the economy would also be modernised and the provision of cheaper electricity, through the gas-to-shore project, are among the major initiatives to benefit the people, industries and the nation as a whole.
Important too, he said, is the establishment of Phase II of the Mahaica/Mahaicony/Abary-Agriculture Development Scheme (MMA-ADA Scheme).
This “ultimately is going to see another 200,000 acres of prime agricultural land open. When that acreage is open you will see hundreds of farmers being able to access large acreage for primary cultivation, and at the same time, right about the same time, you are going to see electricity cost coming down and industrial development to promote agro-processing.
“The commitment of the Peoples Progressive Party Government to the people of Guyana is that we will realise, in this term of office, we will realise demonstrated progress in transformation in all of our sectors, foremost amongst which will be agriculture; that is our commitment,” Dr. Singh said.
Meanwhile, at the sod-turning ceremony, Agriculture Minister, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha said the Government and Ministry, would upgrade infrastructure. The Minister noted that when he assumed office, the first challenge he faced was fixing dilapidated structures, clogged canals and impassable dams. He noted that the MMA/ADA Scheme was one of the areas that benefitted from his intervention and emergency works to the value of $98 million.
Minister Mustapha said agriculture is often overlooked, but it is one of the most important sectors in Guyana as it creates jobs, wealth and food security.
“We believe investments in infrastructure are required to make the agriculture sector viable and sustainable. Without key investment in infrastructure, service delivery may not be able to take place. If we want to improve production and productivity, then as a facilitator, as a Government, we have to put the necessary infrastructure in place to ensure that we complement the farmers so that they can produce,” he said.
Agriculture is also major contributor to Guyana’s gross domestic product and the renewed interest in this sector is likely to increase revenues.
“As a Government, we recognise the importance of the agriculture sector that is why we are putting that kind of resources to develop the sector…
“We are having a lot of international investors knocking on our doors to invest in the agriculture sector because they also, like us in the Government, they also see agriculture as a very, very important sector in our country, which can create jobs, which can create wealth, and more importantly, food security,” he said.
With rice production, the fisheries sector and investments in sugar, the Government expects that the sector would experience tremendous growth in the near future.
Since taking office, Minister Mustapha has been visiting various farming communities across the country to identify needs and to get a first-hand look at existing conditions in agriculture. As a result, significant infrastructure works were done, particularly to enhance drainage and irrigation and to upgrade other agriculture infrastructure.
“Farmers are going back to the land. We have seen that farmers are eager to start back work in the agriculture sector, start back production because of the infrastructure that we are putting in place,” Minister Mustapha said.
The Minister noted that with the passage of the upcoming budget, more projects will come on stream that will further develop the sector.