– modernisation remains a necessity for further development
With major budgetary allocations and financial injections into the agriculture sector over the past two years under the PPP/C Government, Guyana is poised for major development in the sector.
This was reiterated by Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, in his address to Cotton Tree, West Coast Berbice residents during a Presidential outreach on Friday.
Citing major developmental projects in the sector, the Minister lauded the revamping of the agricultural extension system, which will see officers being more responsive to farmers’ needs, and offering advice on the best practices for their undertakings.
He also alluded to President, Dr Irfaan Ali’s push to consolidate and expand traditional crops through the involvement of young people in agriculture.
“Traditionally, when you look around Guyana, you find mostly mature and older people are doing agriculture. And you have a number of young people who would have gone to the university, studied agronomy, have their degree, qualify, and are sitting behind a desk, not doing anything. Just writing and taking notes.
“So, the President wants to change that, so what he has done is he has implemented a new, smarter way of doing it, and where we have a number of young people now, they are involved in high-value crops; crops that they can grow and have a better price for them,” the Minister said.
These crops include broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and lettuce.
“Those things are very expensive in the hospitality industry. Those things will be needed in the oil and gas sector. We are seeing more and more workers going into the oil and gas sector. That is more opportunity for the farmers, because more and more people going into the oil and gas sector, we will have to produce more food for them to supply.”
As such, the minister underscored the need for large-scale transformation and modernisation in the agriculture sector.
“We in Guyana here are producing 60 per cent of the food we are consuming, but the president and the government are not satisfied with that. He said we must ramp up production, especially in the traditional crops. Increase the rice crop. Move the acreage. Increase the yield. Cash crop, fresh fruits and vegetables. Increase the livestock sector.
“But what we must also do is go into other crops. We must go into new crops so that the country can grow more diversified crops in our country,” he said.
Further detailing the importance of moving away from traditional practices within the agricultural sector, Minister Mustapha highlighted the improved yield recorded with the new variety of rice being distributed by the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), GRDB 16.
“We were able to move the National average from 39 bags per acre, and some of the farmers are reaping between 55 and 60 bags per acre in the GRDB-16 variety.
“And we are moving to develop something called bio-fortified rice. This rice is a variety that contains the supplement zinc…. We are now growing it in rice. And very shortly, we will distribute that to the farmers to grow. That variety will attract preferential prices,” the minister explained.
As it pertains to a marketplace for Guyana’s produce, the President has been working with a number of leaders within the Caribbean to remove the non-tariff barriers that affect the movement of Local produce into places like Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Eastern Caribbean countries.
These barriers, the agriculture minister said, are currently in the process of being removed,
“so, you the farmers now will have more opportunities, you’ll have better prices for produce.”
The government is currently working to develop a new packaging facility at Fort Wellington, where farmers can take their produce, have it packaged and prepared, and have a market found where their produce could be exported in a more profitable way.
“So, we have to prepare ourselves, we have to modernize the sector to be smarter, and do agriculture in a smarter way. We have to use shade houses. We have to use drones. Those are the things we have to bring into the agriculture sector. Those are the things we are implementing,”
Minister Mustapha said. Agriculture continues to play a major role in the government’s transformational agenda, to further its goal of becoming the premier food producer of the Caribbean Community by 2025.