Public-private partnerships deemed critical for agricultural development – Min. Mustapha

GCCI hosts Agriculture Symposium

On Tuesday, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) in collaboration with the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) hosted an agriculture symposium with the aim of fostering engaging and constructive conversations among stakeholders in the agriculture sector. 

The symposium was hosted under the theme ‘Exploring Opportunities in Agriculture through Innovation and Collaboration’ and was designed to be a collaborative effort to involve a broad spectrum of stakeholders.

Agriculture Minister Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha while delivering the keynote address during the opening ceremony at the opening explained that one of the key drivers of agriculture’s business potential in Guyana is the increasing demand for CARICOM to be self-sufficient.

Agriculture Minister, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha

While referencing CARICOM’s Vision 25 by 2025, Minister Mustapha said the initiative has the potential to boost the private sector.

“With the increased production in the more than 20 commodities identified under the 25 by 2025 initiative, auxiliary businesses to the agriculture sector, such as suppliers of fertilizer, feed, equipment, and other inputs will see increased demand and it is imperative that those demands are met. A major part of the equation for reducing our food imports and increasing production is to produce and sell these goods, as well as to develop new and innovative ways to grow, process, and distribute them. Therefore, as we advance the agriculture sector to an expanded, diversified, modernized, resilient, and competitive sector, it is important we pool our collective resources to create consortiums to take advantage of these opportunities in the agriculture sector and agro-processing industry of Guyana,” the minister explained. 

Minister Mustapha also said that by realizing that both public and private investment are critical for the expansion of Guyana’s Agriculture sector, the Government has been redesigning policies in the sector to ensure that there is a favorable environment for investment.

“The Government of Guyana is currently investing in infrastructural development by opening new farm-to-market roads; clearing and preparation of new lands; expanding the infrastructure in the intermediate savannahs; as well as expanding drainage and irrigation networks to make new land available for small, medium, and mega-farms. Resources are also being made available to strengthen extension services through additional and improved facilities; traceability and certification services to reduce existing trade barriers; research and development; and coordinating and facilitating private sector participation in agriculture-based tourism.  Support is also being given to the private sector to expand production and exports of non-traditional crops such as corn, soya, coconuts, broccoli, cauliflower, spices, citrus, and fresh flowers,” Minister Mustapha added.

A section of those in attendance

The government in an effort to assist farmers with access to funding was able to negotiate with financial institutions such as Republic Bank Limited, who in 2022, committed US$100 million in financing for the agriculture sector, through the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Sustainability Agriculture Credit Facility which provides funding for up to five years for repaying up to GY$2 billion to Guyana, with interest rates as low as 2.5 percent. The government was also able to work with the Demerara Bank to develop a farmers’ credit line programme that requires no collaterals, a usual prerequisite for loans giving farmers the opportunity to access between $1 million to $1.5 million, at an interest rate of 7.5 percent. During today’s sessions, farmers, agro-processors and students from the Guyana School of Agriculture will participate in panel discussions on several topics related to agro-development and business.