President Ali launches black belly sheep project in Region Five

─ says region could be the livestock capital of CARICOM
─ 1000 sheep to arrive in 2 weeks
─ youths, women to be integrally involved

President, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali on Sunday, launched the anticipated black belly sheep project in the Mahaica-Berbice (Region Five), as government intensifies its agriculture programme.

With the region being Guyana’s largest producer of livestock, President Ali said it has the potential to become the livestock capital of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali addressing farmers at the launch of the black belly sheep project

Dr. Ali noted that with a US$3 million initial investment, 1000 black belly sheep will arrive in the country within two weeks, and another 1000 in the near future.

“Region Five, must be the livestock of CARICOM. That is the vision, so that we have to increase our production, we have to increase our quality, we have to improve our breed, we have to use more advanced technology, we have to invest in the infrastructure and we have to work on building the partnership, all of which is ongoing,” President Ali stated as he addressed farmers of the region.

President Ali in a detailed presentation, highlighted that the world import value on mutton and mutton products is US$ 8 billion, noting that 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.

Region Five farmers gathered at the launch of the project

“We have already agreed with Barbados that Guyana and Barbados would do a joint project to supply the Barbados market strictly from Guyana to start with. That is a market with a value of US $6.8 million,” Dr. Ali disclosed.

He further pointed out that from 2016 to 2019, the industry has grown in CARICOM from US $36 million to close to US$48 million. He made it known that Guyana is looking to expand local production above 7,000 tonnes at the end of a five-year period. This, he said, will require a capital investment of a US$175 million and approximately 25,000 acres of land. However, President Ali said the expected earning is estimated at US $43 million annually.

“We have right within our arms’ reach a market that can generate a value of US$48 million. And who supplies CARICOM right now? Australia and New Zealand. With the cost of freight and logistics cost increases, it is becoming more and more expensive, that is why this is a low hanging fruit, CARICOM is right within our arms reach.”

“I am presenting you this to show you the opportunities so that you will know in this project there are great opportunities. This is not a project by guess, this is a project that is supported by scientific research, market research and strong negotiations on the trade side,” President Ali stated.

Region Five farmers gathered at the launch of the project

It was also stressed by Dr. Ali that if Guyana is to tap into the available market, there must be consistency. Farmers were given the assurance that the industry which is a sleeping giant, will receive the full support of government with machines to bring their fields up to par to support the initiative. Already, 78 farmers have signalled their interest in the project and have signed up, making about 1,325 acres of their land available for that purpose. Support will also be given by veterinarians to provide guidance and support the sect0r.

“We are going to hire specifically for this project a dedicated team that will in a full-time manner, work with the farmers here in support of the sector. we are building an entire machinery to work with you,” he assured farmers.

The black belly sheep project, President Ali made clear, also falls under government’s ‘one Guyana’ initiative. He said it is not only a concept that deals with social issues, but also about bringing economic prosperity to every single citizen as it has the potential to create 4500 jobs directly and indirectly. However, the President emphasised that there is need for commitment by all involved.

“One Guyana requires all of us to work together and advance on the cause for development together. These projects can never be successful if we don’t understand that we must do it together, we have to it together and we are not going to fail by doing it separately. Every single farmer must be a support for the other farmer.”

“We are not building a one-off project. The vision of this project is first to be self-sufficient locally but importantly in the short term to start supply regionally and then grow this grow it to an international product. And for that, we are bringing in the relevant players, the global players to work side by side with us” the President said.

The Head of State also disclosed that he wants the agricultural sector to be built differently and wants to see youths and women playing an integral role as there is great economic prosperity in the sector.

“For this specific project in Region Five, we want 20 per cent of those farms to be led by women and 35 percent of the farms must have youth involvement, that is young people below the age of 35. This is part of building the future, this is part of empowerment, these are real targets and a real approach in the involvement of people. So not only must agriculture be on food production, it must be built on erasing biases,” President Ali stated.

Large scale producers will also be coming to the table not to compete but to support farmers through technology and capital.

Government in its 2022 budget has earmarked $28.7 billion to ensure the rapid growth and development of Guyana’s agriculture sector.