Government’s continued investment in the agriculture sector is paying off as it recorded significant growth in the first half of this year.
The Ministry of Finance’s mid- year report has estimated growth in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors expanded by some 10.9 per cent and is expected to grow by 11.9 per cent.
The PPC/C Administration, led by President Dr Irfaan Ali, has been leading the Caribbean in its food security efforts to lower the high food import bill in the region and to ensure food security.
Thus, massive investments have been made in the agriculture sector since taking office in 2020. This was complemented by assistance to farmers, and tax concessions to stakeholders in the sector and other support mechanisms.
The report shows that despite weak performance from the sugar, rice and fishing industries, there was higher outputs from other crops, forestry and livestock.
According to the report, “during the first half of 2022, $15.8 billion of the $32.6 billion budgeted was expended in the agriculture sector as government sought to expand cultivation and production to reduce imports, increase exports, and foster diversification despite, the La Niña weather conditions that prevailed.”
The construction of major infrastructure, procurement of key equipment and machinery, and the establishment of necessary systems and partnerships were als0 initiated.
The government contributed $2 billion to GuySuCo to advance the projects slated for this year and support the smooth operation of the industry.
Albion, Blairmont, Uitvlugt and Rose Hall estates, all benefitted from upgrades, the report states.
“A total of 1,238 persons were employed by GuySuCo at Skeldon, Rose Hall and Enmore over the period August 2020 to June 2022. Of this amount, 922 were re-employed severed personnel and 316 were new hires,” the report said.
Some 1,400 employees of Uitvlugt Estate received cash grants to supplement their reduced income, which resulted from mechanical failure at the factory during the first crop of 2022, an initiative which totaled $275.6 million.
In the first half of 2022, the cultivation of paddy required expanded support from government due to the adverse weather conditions and the increase in the prices for fertiliser.
Increased fertiliser prices in the first half of 2022, prompted support by government for rice cultivation, with 139 farmers receiving relief totaling some $58.4 million to assist in their recovery after the 2021 floods.
There were also interventions in constructing and maintaining infrastructure and drainage and irrigation, among other support to the sector.
“At the end of June 2022, $107.5 million of the $300 million budgeted was expended to create a variability and breeding nursery and conduct experiments in harvesting, crop nutrition and soil fertility disease resistance screening as well as a study on paddy bug management.” the report further states.
Also, 953 farmers were trained in sustainable agricultural practices, while 83 farms were certified to produce wholesome foods and agricultural commodities for export
“Another 3,602 cash crops farmers received $431.7 million in relief grants to assist with their recovery from the 2021 floods.”
The government has also been placing focus on the revival of the coconut industry locally, and according to the report, at the end of June 2022, “$34.6 million of the budgeted $66 million was expended to increase coconut cultivation and production. The national effort to expand the production of coconut water and coconut-based products has seen success with a 58 percent increase in the production of coconuts to 27,598 tonnes in the first half of 2022, compared with the first half of 2021.”
The coconut seedlings production for the first half of 2022 was 21,566 compared with 18,306 in the first half of 2021, according to the report.
Livestock also got support from government with the Guyana Livestock Development Authority receiving $842.3 million in the National Budget with $406.6 expended so far.
“In the first half of 2022, Government distributed 1,050 broiler chicks, 1,150 black giant chicks and 595 ducklings and provided technical support to farmers. Also, to assist with the recovery after the 2021 floods,1,050 farmers received $57 million relief grants.”
Despite, the fisheries sector facing some challenges locally and worldwide, the fisheries department expended $142 million out of $343.7 million budgeted this year, this translated into increased aquaculture production in the first half of this year compared to last year.
Government’s expanded brackish-water shrimp production programme which saw the rehabilitation of over 673 acres of shrimp farms, resulted in a brackish-water shrimp production increase of 292.6 per cent.
The report also highlighted the upgrade of the Satyadeow Sawh Aquaculture Station, which sold 26,630 fingerlings to farmers compared with 16,595 in the same period last year. Drainage and Irrigation was also highlighted with $7.7 billion spent on drainage and irrigation works during the review period in response to La Nina weather conditions.