Press Statement by Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha

Ministry of Agriculture

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

This press conference is intended to provide a brief overview of the state of affairs that the PPP/C government, inherited from the APNU/AFC administration, with regard to the Ministry of Agriculture and some its sectors.

Each of these sectors and agencies are governed by a Board of Directors. As far as I am aware, all of these Boards would have expired as of June, 2020. New Boards will be appointed as soon as possible.

The Boards within the Agriculture Sector are:

  1.  GUYSUCO
  2. GRDB
  3. MMA/ADA
  4. PTCCB
  5. GMC
  6. NDIA
  7. HOPE COCONUT INDUSTRIES LTD.
  8. ASDU
  9. FISHERIES ADVISORY COMMITTEE
  10. NAREI
  11. GLDA
  12. GSA
  13. MARDS

14.BOERASIRIE CONSERVANCY

  1. EAST DEMERARA WATER CONSERVANCY

16.NATIONAL CANE FARMING COMMITTEE

  1. GUYANA FISHERIES LIMITED

GuySuCo

Various weaknesses were discovered, and I wish to start with the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) which was forced into an extremely dire position over the past five years by the incompetence of and mismanagement by the APNU/AFC government.

The Corporation will not be in a position to pay wages from the week ending 21st August. Under the previous administration, a request was made to NICIL for an amount of $1Billion, but only $550M was received to date.

The $1Billion is required to cover operational expenditure until the Corporation commences receipt of sugar proceeds which will become available in the second week of September.

Capital program suffered from a lack of funding and will result in future crops being adversely affected. For this year from a budget of G$3.24Billion, the Corporation could only expend $82Million due to external funding not been made available.

There was a shortfall of 9,461 tonnes in production for the First Crop of 2020 from a target of 46,476 tonnes. Only 37,015 tonnes of sugar were produced. Factories were found to be suffering from a lack of capital investment which is contributing to frequent downtime. One example being the Uitvlugt factory, which was affected by several mechanical issues.

The first Crop for 2021, will continue to be weak due to low achievement of tillage and replanting, thus far, for this year. Achieving consistent and adequate cane supply is a problem across the Industry.

There is a shortage of essential inputs like fertilizers and chemicals which are vital to canes in the second Crop, and unless they are procured, cane growth will be adversely affected directly impact future production.

The APNU+AFC government, through NICIL, undertook a loan of $30Billion under the guise of assisting the Corporation. To date, only $10.2Billion was made available to GuySuCo. The Board received no answer as to how much was actually disbursed to NICIL, and plans on repayment of the loan. To date, the Corporation has a total liability of approximately $9.5Billion.

Current projections show that the Corporation would require an additional $1.6Billion, between now and the end of the year, from external funding for capital and ongoing operational expenditure as revenues from sugar and molasses sales, will not be sufficient to cover expenses for that period.

The PPP/C Administration will work to revamp the Sugar Industry and return prosperity to those sugar workers who were sacked by the previous administration. 

Guyana Rice Development Board

Initial checks reveal a delay in payments of commission to the Board by Millers. At the end of July, Millers owed $353,925,513. There is also a delay in receipt of payment for rice supplied to Panama which owes Millers $1,184,198,400. The entity has a current liability of $4.7Million. Its revenue stream can be adversely affected by the ongoing delay in payments from Panama. My Ministry will act immediately to reverse these situations so that these debts can be paid from Panama. We will also meet with the Millers to have them work on payments for the millers as soon as possible. 

In relation to the paddy bug infestation in Essequibo, I’ve instructed the GRDB to have officers on the ground to offer assistance to farmers. We have also set up a paddy bug hotline where persons can call and get information and lodge complaints about paddy bug infestations. The number is 2321395.

Mahaica Mahaicony Abary Agricultural Development Authority (MMA/ADA)

There is a limited budget to facilitate measures instituted in the fight against COVID – 19. In addition, there is a lack of an adequate number of vehicles at the regional level to accommodate staff while on ambulatory and emergency calls; lack of adequate amount of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for all field/quarantine staff involved in wildlife, abattoir inspections and other surveillance activities.

Projected Revenue is uncertain due to a lack of response from indebted farmers. These farmers were burdened by the steep hike in rates and rentals implemented by the APNU+AFC government. There are sixteen legal matters before the high court for which the Authority is a named party. My Ministry will set up a working group to review and bring immediate solutions to these situations faced by our farmers. 

Pesticides and Toxic Chemical Control Board

The PTCCB is experiencing some challenges with regard to the Management of the Environment Protection Agency on its mandate and role and its legislation. This is impacting on the trade of pesticides and toxic chemicals for the manufacturing, mining, industrial, oil and gas and agriculture sectors.

In addition, there is a sporadic resurgence of the illegal trade of pesticides and toxic chemicals from neighbouring countries and registration of veterinary pesticides. A Ministry of Agriculture Team will meet with the Ministry of Natural Resources to resolve the technical issues related to the importation of various important chemicals that has to be used in the respective sectors. We will also ensure that we enforce the Laws related to the illegal trade of pesticides, and anyone caught will face the wrath of the laws. 

Guyana Marketing Corporation 

The current COVID 19 pandemic has led to the Corporation being unable to expand exports of agricultural produce and to a reduction in sales at the Guyana Shop. Market intelligence shows Agro-processors experiencing a decline in the sale of their products. The New Board of Directors will focus on revamping Regional and International markets for our local products through our partners. 

NDIA

A shortfall of $89Million was discovered in the Budget of the NDIA and a related request was lodged with the Ministry of Finance under the previous administration.

There is a contract in the sum of G$753,397,248M for the acquisition of fixed & mobile pumps & associated structures & spares. To date, $308,137,000M has been paid, however, there is a delay in supply and installation. We will work immediately to have this rectified and keep the public up-to-date with the progress. 

Locals to fix and install pumps.

Even as parts of our country are affected by flooding, with residents inconvenienced and farmers losing crops and livestock, 20 pumps and 21 excavators were found to be inoperable with $23,842,320 owed to operators of equipment. The NDIA is tasked with ensuring that these outstanding payments be made.

Hope Coconut Industries Ltd. 

The estate is presently in a poor financial position with only $116,072 in its account. This is due mainly to a drop in demand for coconut seedlings and the low rate of land rent collection. Presently, only 41 of 333 farmers have paid their rent for 2020. The Ministry will appoint a Board that is capable to reform and re-orient the estate’s agricultural activities to make it a sustainable and profitable industry.

Agriculture Sector Development Unit

Additional financing of US$26Million for the Flood Risk Management project applied for, from the World Bank, and a change of scope within the project to facilitate the construction of a Swine Abattoir through the Rural Agricultural Infrastructure Development (RAID), were found to be awaiting signatures from the former Minister of Finance.

With regard to the Sustainable Agricultural Development Project (SADP), finalisation of the re-allocation process of the loan agreement with IDB in keeping with the original objectives was not completed, as was the restructuring of the loan agreement with IFAD, in keeping with the original objectives the Hinterland Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture Development Project (HESADP). *

Fisheries Department

This department was found to have a liability of $40Million. There is still a need for the provision of security, tracking systems and other measures for fishermen to mitigate piracy attacks; accommodation for staff located at Head office; Legal and Inspectorate Unit; Aquaculture Unit in Regions # 3, 5, 6 and 10 and for equipment and vehicles in hinterland regions to be able to effectively serve those areas.

The Ministry will continue its assessment of these and other entities, within its realm of responsibility, to derive a more detailed picture of what has been inherited by the PPP/C government.

My Ministry will also revamp all the other Boards of Directors, as well as all Water Users’ Associations, throughout the Country.

There will be special focus on the:

NAREI

GLDA

GSA

MARDS

NATIONAL CANE FARMING COMMITTEE

GUYANA FISHERIES LIMITED

FISHERIES ADVISORY COMMITTEE

RICE ASSESSMENT COMMITTEE

Our Public Relation’s Department will be keeping the Media up to date with the progress of the Ministry.

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