‘New global approach’ possible for guaranteed food security

President Ali tells United Nations

Reaffirming Guyana’s commitment to contributing to global food security, His Excellency, Dr Irfaan Ali on Wednesday proposed several measures that could tackle the global food crisis.

President Ali made these suggestions at the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, United States.

President Dr Irfaan Ali addressing the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday

One of the mechanisms that could be implemented to achieve the much-needed change is the complete removal of export bans on commodities such as rice and wheat.

“The question is ‘what are we doing about this? Can the reversal of export bans on rice and wheat and freeing up of grains help this situation? The answer is a resounding yes,” the Guyanese head of state asserted.

With the world’s global import bill projected to increase by US $51 billion, countries must act now to determine what the next step would be in tackling the world’s common issue, he told the high-level confab.

“As world leaders, we must find the balance now…now is the time for us to decide if a new approach is needed to guarantee food security, access to health care and quality education, and security from conflicts and wars,” the president pointed out.

Further, Dr Ali stressed that when these decisions are made, the Caribbean region and other “economically vulnerable countries” must not be left out.

Referencing the Food and Agricultural Organisation’s (FAO) Food Import Financing Facility (FIFF), the president said a revision may be needed for Caribbean countries to receive the fullest benefit.

“There is a need to revise the eligibility criteria to accommodate countries beyond the categories of low-income and lower-middle income groups. This narrow grouping heightens the chance that many at-risk, economically vulnerable countries such as the Caribbean…will be excluded,” he highlighted.

Guyana currently holds lead responsibility for Agriculture, Agricultural Diversification and Food Security in CARICOM, and is spearheading the regional body’s quest of reducing its food import bill.

An overarching strategy was developed that incorporated all the stakeholders, including farmers, the private sector, women and youth within the region. The strategy outlines specific actions that are required by each state in achieving the 25 by 2025 goal.

In an effort to assist in the achievement of the region’s goal of reducing the food import bill the PPP/C Administration has embarked on a slew of initiatives.

“To this end, we have earmarked 35 per cent of all new agro-businesses to be led by women and have increased youth participation in agriculture with the use of technology by more than 40 per cent,” President Ali noted.

The brackish-water shrimp production, corn and soya, Barbados black belly sheep and shade house projects are some of the notable agriculture interventions being undertaken locally, as part of food security efforts.

This brackish-water shrimp project is an intervention valuing more than $50 million and has resulted in a 175 per cent increase in the shrimp production in the first quarter of 2022, compared to the first quarter of 2021.

Phase two of the project is being implemented this year, with government committing an additional $230 million to rehabilitate an additional 63 farms, comprising 109 ponds. This is expected to increase the shrimp production with an estimated value of over $300 million per annum. 

President Ali on March 27, launched the black belly sheep project in the Mahaica-Berbice (Region Five).

With Region Five being Guyana’s largest producer of livestock, the president stated that it has the potential to become the livestock capital of the Caribbean Community.

The world import value of mutton and mutton products is US$ 8 billion.

CARICOM alone imports 7,900 tonnes of mutton at US$48 million annually. The four major markets in the region are the Bahamas, Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. From 2016 to 2019, the industry has grown in CARICOM from US $36 million to close to US$48 million.

Guyana wants to expand local production above 7,000 tonnes at the end of a five-year period. The effort requires a capital investment of US$175 million and approximately 25,000 acres of land. However, President Ali said the expected earnings is estimated at US $43 million annually.