-$5billion assigned to GuySuCo
-closed estates to reopened, jobs to be created
-$18.4billion allocated to agriculture sector
The Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc. (GuySuCo) will be receiving $5billion from the Government’s new budgetary measures to rejuvenate the sugar industry, reopen the closed estates, and essentially, recreate employment.
President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, His Excellency, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, announced that his government will begin the process of reopening three of the four sugar estates that were closed by the previous APNU+AFC Coalition Government.
Enmore, Rose Hall, Skeldon and Wales complete the list of the closed sugar estates.
Closure of these sugar estates saw an increase in unemployment as it was the main source of income in the sugar-producing districts.
Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha, who recently appeared on the National Communications Network (NCN’s) ‘Insight’, noted that one of the major fulfillments of the PPP/C Government was to resuscitate village economy and create more jobs by reopening the closed sugar estates with the budgeted $5billion.
“GuySuCo was the largest single employer of Guyanese, and over the last five years, we’ve seen a decline in that due to the actions of the APNU+AFC Government. When GuySuCo is affected, the entire nation is also affected,” Minister Mustapha stated.
The Agriculture Minister addressed statements made by the previous administration which suggested that the Government’s plan to reopen the closed sugar estates was a “political gimmick.”
“When we [PPP/C Government] said that one of our first plans will be to reopen the closed sugar estates, which formed part of our manifesto. While the previous administration said that this was a political gimmick, as the Minister of Agriculture, I am extremely pleased to say that money has already been budgeted for these estates, and the reopening will be a reality very shortly,” Minister Mustapha contested.
Meanwhile, farmers across the nation have welcomed the government’s announcement towards the sugar industry with open arms, as it will replenish opportunities and jobs lost under the previous administration.
Estate Manager attached to the Uitvlugt Leonora Estate, Yudhisthira Mana, believes strongly that the government’s budgetary measures for GuySuCo will profit the sugar industry.
“We would’ve seen capital and infrastructural investment very much restricted over the last four years. We would’ve seen bridges and access damns falling apart. The bars we used to transport the cane to the factory were torn apart with minimal replacement,” Mana explained. The Uitvlugt Estate Manager also appeared on the NCN programme.
He noted that in keeping up with the reforming world, oil and gas should be used to modernize and enhance the sugar industry.
During the reading of the 2020 Budget on September 09, Minister of Public Works, Hon. Bishop Juan Edghill, highlighted that GuySuCo will concentrate its efforts to ensure it achieves a break-even status in the short term.
“We will ensure better management by appointing a new, competent and skilled Board of Directors. We will ensure greater efficiency through the necessary re-tooling, product diversification and retraining where necessary,” Minister Edghill posited.
$18.4billion has been allocated to the overall agriculture sector to promote a diversified economy, while creating more jobs, increasing farmers’ income and ease the burden associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
– MP Seeraj pleased Gov’t has given tax breaks to farmers
Member of Parliament and General Secretary of the Guyana Rice Producers Association, Dharamkumar Seeraj, lauded the proposed $18.4 billion budgetary allocation for the agriculture sector, noting that it will create an enabling environment for farmers to increase production. MP Seeraj, in an interview on the National Communications Network’s (NCN’s) television programme ‘Insight’, said post 2014, a number of burdensome taxes were placed on the agricultural sector making it harder for farmers to produce.
“I am happy that the Government has seen the wisdom of giving this ease to farmers,” MP Seeraj said, adding that the proposed agricultural allocations in Budget 2020, which also saw the announcement of the reversal of several taxes, will allow the sector to bloom.
The proposed Budget will also see the removal of Value-Added Tax (VAT) on agriculture machinery, fertilisers, agrochemicals, pesticides, along with key inputs in the poultry industry and zero-rating of the poultry industry. There are also provisions for tax concessions on investments in agro-processing facilities, cold storage and packaging. Further, special incentives are will be made available for the planting of corn and soybean.
Importantly, the reversal of land lease fees across all sectors and water charges back to 2014 rates, the reversal of land taxes and drainage and irrigation charges back to 2014 were also proposed.
Seeraj observed that subsequent to 2014, the former administration, in the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary -Agricultural Development Authority (MMA-ADA) Mahaica-Berbice (Region Five), increased land rental with drainage and irrigation services from $3,500 to $15,000 per acre. Further, the charges for pasture land, without the benefit of drainage and irrigation services or access road moved from $322 to $1,500 per acre.
The MP noted that this increased land rate was insensitive and put unnecessary pressure on farmers who were already contending with VAT on other utility services such as on water and electricity.
Seeraj noted that Budget 2020 has corrected these wrongs. He noted that most times when the burden of taxes are removed, the end user does not always benefit, but committed that the Government will be working to ensure the tax measures announced in the 2020 budgetary measures benefits the ordinary Guyanese.
“In the case of export and export of agricultural products and also livestock, with the removal of VAT, we will be paying keen attention to that to ensure that our exporters pass on the benefit of the removal of the VAT on the services provided,” Mr. Seeraj said.
─ $9Billion to assist with D&I
─ $112.9Million to aid rice farmers
─ no more VAT on fertilisers, agro-chemicals and pesticides
After struggling for the last five years, Guyana’s Agriculture Sector is set for a major boost as $18.4Billion is being pumped into the sector to aid in revitalising and revamping the industry, as the PPP/C Administration plans to waste no time in fulfilling its mandate.
During the presentation of the 2020 budget in the National Assembly on Wednesday, Public Works Minister, Hon. Bishop Juan Edghill announced that from the grand total, some $9Billion will be channeled towards improving Drainage and Irrigation (D&I) across the nation.
Farmlands in excess of 1,200 acres in West Watooka, Region 10 will benefit from D&I works this year; while works for the design of pump stations at Cottage, Adventure, and Andrew, will commence.
“The design of farm-to-market roads, with the intention of upgrading the existing mud dam access to farm-to-market access roads at Villages 52-58, Region 6, Right Bank Mahaicony. Left Bank Mahaica, and Salem, Region 3 [will become a reality]. Further, our drainage capacity will be bolstered this year with the installation of 12 high capacity drainage pumps for Regions 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6,” Minister Edghill stated.
Rendering full support to farmers and millers with the aim of expanding the rice industry, government has decided to reverse increases in land lease fees for lands under cultivation, and land taxes and drainage and irrigation charges, back to their 2014 positions.
A $112.9Million has been injected into the Mahaica/Mahaicony/Abary-Agricultural Development Authority. This fund is expected to improve drainage and irrigation works within the area and bring additional lands to a usable state.
“The Guyana Rice Development Board will continue to expand and secure new markets for paddy and other by-products; increase productivity through research and development into new strains, and robust pest control measures; continue seed paddy production with enhanced extension and quality control; and, involve all stakeholders, working together to increase productivity.”
The subvention to the Agri-ministry will also provide much needed support to the fisheries Department. It is expected to intensify the monitoring and surveillance capabilities, and promote sustainable fishing through improved management.
Minister Edghill said too that emphasis will be placed on working to revert the US ban on Catfish.
Meanwhile, due to the impact of COVID-19, the income of farmers has reduced significantly. In an effort to provide some relief to the farmers, there has been a removal of Valued Added Tax (VAT) on fertilisers, agro-chemicals and pesticides.
“The National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) in a quest to reduce the cost of inputs and at the same time promote climate-smart agriculture, will expend $15.8Million for the acquisition of shade house materials and sprinkler hoses. NAREI will sell the materials to farmers at cost price, saving farmers over 33 percent ($5Million). The monies from this investment will be utilized as a revolving fund for future purchases of required materials for farmers,” Minister Edghill added.
He said government will continue to promote agricultural diversification with a focus on coconut, and horticulture by engaging NAREI and the Hope Coconut Estate. The coconut industry will be given prominence by promoting expansion in acreages, inter-cropping, utilisation of coconut by-products, and increasing production and productivity.
Further, Minister Edghill noted that there will be continued investment in the development of the livestock industry ─ ensuring there is sufficient throughput in the sector for food and nutrition security and for market demand. Emphasis will be on improving genetic and research capacity of farms, and interventions to provide appropriate breed stock.
“We are moving to improve standards and bring down production costs in this industry. To this end, we will continue projects such as the abattoir at Onverwagt, West Coast Berbice, and review other projects in the pipeline in order to prioritise those most transformative for the sector. With regards to reducing production costs, we have already removed VAT on key inputs in the poultry industry, in addition to reverting it to zero-rated status, and created incentives for the production of corn and soybeans, key feedstock inputs.”
IN supporting CARICOM countries’ access to climate and environmental financing, Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, met recently with the AMEXCID-FAO technical teams from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Sub-Regional offices in the Caribbean.
At the online meeting also was the minister’s technical team, along with Ambassador Jose Omar Hurtado Contreras, Ambassador of Mexico in Guyana.
The objective of the meeting was to reformulate the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (AMEXCID)-FAO partnership project for the Caribbean, which was initiated in 2018 and supported by Mexico and FAO to help CARICOM countries, especially Guyana, to fight climate change.
The participants reviewed the main achievements for the period of September 2018 to February 2020 and discussed the project implementation going forward, in light of the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The project achievements over the last two years were – supporting countries to access climate financing and environmental finance, and design and submission of project proposals.
Dr. Gillian Smith, FAO Representative in Guyana noted, “In going forward with this project, COVID-19 has forced us to relook at the objectives and see how the project could meet the needs of Guyana.”
The post-COVID-19 reformulation will focus on supporting countries to recover from the impact of COVID-19 with emphasis on activities that can deliver concrete support for economic recovery and job creation, through agriculture and safeguard food security.
Nationally, we could see the implementation of a school-feeding programme, expanding opportunities for livelihood in aquaculture, and the water-energy nexus to support sustainable and productive small-scale farming.
Minister Mustapha stated that his ministry is fully committed to this climate change initiative and thanked Ambassador Contreras and his government and the FAO for their support to build climate resilience and improve the livelihood of farmers and everyone in Guyana.
Similar sentiments were echoed by the director-general of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Minister Mustapha promised to remain engaged in the implementation of the project since climate change is of great concern for the Government of Guyana.
The technical representative of Mexico, Alexandra Icela Martinez, stated that her country wished to improve cooperation and friendship, and would like to see a transparent and accountable process in areas of natural resource use, and support given to the vulnerable population.
Ambassador Contreras noted that the project can benefit the people of Guyana by reducing the effects of the COVID-19 disease.
The timeline for the project completion is 2023.
- emergency budget to address some of the issues faced by agro-processors
During a virtual meeting earlier today with officials from the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association Limited (GMSA), Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha reiterated Government’s commitment to improving the agro-processing and micro enterprise industries.
While reflecting on several announcements made by His Excellency, Dr. Irfaan Ali, Minister Mustapha said that the reversal of several taxes to items and machinery involved in the agriculture production chain will see the cost of production for many agro-processed products significantly reducing.
“Yesterday, His Excellency disclosed that this four-month emergency budget will see the removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) to items such as water and electricity, tax concessions for agriculture and the reversal of an increase to land lease fees. We will also be removing VAT from exports, construction materials, seeds,pesticides and agro-chemicals,” Minister Mustapha said.
Minister Mustapha further stated that with these immediate interventions, persons involved in agriculture will benefit from an overall decrease in their cost of production.
President of GMSA, Shyam Nokta during the meeting said that he is pleased with these immediate interventions. He also shed some light on some of the challenges faced by members of the Association.
“Basically, the challenges faced in the agro-processing sector are cost of production, financing, legislation, marketing as well as market access, technology and technical knowledge and enabling agencies an ease of doing business. For our agro-processors and small micro-enterprises to meet their full potential, there needs to be some level of Government’s intervention to better address issues such as access to raw materials, energy, taxation and some amount of improved research and development in areas of processing techniques and technology,” Mr. Nokta said.
In responding to those concerns, Minister Mustapha said that the emergency budget was developed to immediately address many of the Government Manifesto’s promises, for example, lowering of the overall cost of production of agro-processed items. He added that it is the vision of the Government to tap into additional international markets and benefit from funds generated from international food import bills.
“Guyana has somewhat of a large food import bill. We are still a developing country. The import bills of other developing and developed countries are far larger. I do believe our products have the potential to shine on the world market. Government is working to put the necessary systems in place to ensure our products meet international requirements and standards. This will allow our agro-processors and small micro-enterprises to have their products added to the list of food imported by these countries, thus benefiting from funds from those import bills” Minister Mustapha said.
The GMSA President also said that from the association’s standpoint, there should be a greater push for access to financing by agro-processors from Government initiatives under agencies such as the Small Business Bureau (SBB).
“The SBB should also include monitoring and capacity development, in addition to financing. There should also be some sort of Government led lending facility that provides affordable access to financing and exhibits tolerance to the risks in agro-processing,” Mr. Nokta said.
GMSA Executive Board Member, Raymond Ramsaroop, pointed out that even with the passage of the Food Safety Bill, there is a big gap with the export of fresh produce.
Minister Mustapha informed Mr. Ramsaroop that the Ministry is working to formally establish its Food Safety Department.
“Even though this Department was established, there was no proper system in place for the effective functioning. Government is now looking to establish and make budgetary allocations for the department to function,” Minister Mustapha said.
The subject Minister also noted that over a period of time, it is Government’s desire to establish an agro-processing facility. This, he added will see government engaging farmers to get involved in ‘cluster farming’ so that they would have the capacity to supply such a facility through contractual farming arrangements.
Mr. Ramsaroop, in offering his support, said that such an initiative can be a public-private initiative.
“Although government may start with a public-private partnership, the initial investment could be from Government with an appropriate exit agreement developed for Government over time. A model of such a facility exists in Belize and when you are ready to move forward with these plans, a visit to Belize would assist greatly with establishing a successful plant of that nature in Guyana,” Mr. Ramsaroop said.
Minister Mustapha also informed the team that additional incentives can be expected for the further development of the sector in subsequent national budgets.
- 1500 more hampers, other items for vulnerable groups
Earlier today, the Central Islamic Organization of Guyana (CIOG) handed over 1,500 food hampers to the Government of Guyana to assist with its relief efforts in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The donation was made to Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, who accepted the hampers on behalf of the Government.
In a statement reassuring CIOG’s commitment to support government’s initiatives to combat the fight against the pandemic and the alleviation of poverty, Deputy President of the organization, Goolzar Namdar stated that several programs have already been executed in this regard.
“In addition to what we are donating today, we’ve already distributed more than 6,000 food hampers to less fortunate citizens in Berbice, Demerara, Essequibo and Linden. We’ve also distributed over 3,000 face masks to organizations such as the Georgetown Hospital Corporation, 250 medical ventilator humidifiers to three hospitals in Georgetown, a number clothing and footwear to over 1,500 families and sponsored 40 less fortunate children whose parents lost their income as a result of the closure of the sugar estates,” the statement said.
It further went on to mention that the donations were made possible through charitable donations from the Islamic Development Relief Foundation (IDRF), the Muslim Welfare Center of Canada, CIOG’s Canadian Support Group, the Muslim Youth Organization of Guyana (MYO) and other members of the business community.
Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, while receiving the donations, expressed his gratitude to the CIOG for its timely and much needed support.
“These food hampers will go to those most in need. On behalf of His Excellency, Dr. Irfaan Ali and other members of the Government, I’d like to express heartfelt gratitude for your organization’s continued support for our efforts to ensure our citizens are taken care of during these troubling times. I must say that I am very happy to hear some of your donations targeted families affected by the closure of the estates. It hasn’t been easy for those families since those estates were closed under the previous administration and the pandemic definitely added to their troubles,” Minister Mustapha said.
The officials also took the opportunity to encourage citizens to stay safe and observe all protocols and guidelines given by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization.
Qualified persons are invited to apply for a Government of Guyana (GoG) Scholarship to study at the Guyana School of Agriculture or the University of Guyana.
A number of programs in agriculture are available.
The deadline for submissions is September 11th, 2020.
Click the link below to apply.
- new GuySuCo B.O.D to be announced soon
Today, while on an outreach to villages along the East Berbice, Corentyne area, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha visited the Skeldon and Rose Hall Estates.
During his first official visit since being appointed Minister of Agriculture, Minister Mustapha was able to assess the state of the estates as government moves forward with its plans of reopening the closed estates.
Minister Mustapha while responding to questions by the media, said that The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) has a team set up to provide Government with details on what is needed to reopen the estates.
“We’ve appointed Mr. Vishnu Panday, who is the former estate manager for the Skeldon estate as the point person/General Manager to move forward at this particular point in time. He will have a small team of technical officers working with him to develop an immediate plan of action to urgently determine what is needed at this estate right now. GuySuCo has already sent a team here and they have supplied me with a detailed plan on the current state of affairs here,” Minister Mustapha said
The subject Minister added that in order to reopen the estates, a conditional survey has to be conducted. He added, that along with the conditional survey which will include an analysis of the factory and the cane fields, farmers will be engaged to boost cane supply to the factory since Skeldon is heavily dependent on farmers’ cane.
“We have to consult the cane farmers because they contribute greatly to the operations of this particular location. They contribute over 33% of the cane used at this factory so we will work with them and GuySuCo to ensure we have enough cane for the factory,” Minister Mustapha said.
The team is expected to submit a plan of action to Government within a week.
It was also disclosed that Dr. N.K. Goopaul and Mr. Aaron Dukhai were also appointed in the same capacity as Mr. Panday to the Enmore and Rose Hall Estates respectively. The subject Minister also mentioned that a New Board of Directors for GuySuCo will soon be in place and will work closely with stakeholders to move this process apace.