Agriculture sector remained sustainable in 2021 despite pandemic

Notwithstanding the harsh effects of Covid-19 on the agriculture sector in 2021, the PPP/C government remained resolute in ensuring Guyanese continue to benefit from sustainable food security.

Since the PPP/C administration took office in August 2020, Guyana, unlike many countries globally, has been a leading nation in efforts to advance and maintain its food sector.

Shot of Minister Mustapha handing over flood relief grant to a resident of Region Six

In 2021, the agriculture industry received billions of dollars and several critical interventions were made, which transformed agriculture into a more diversified, resilient, and competitive sector.

Following the reverse of land rental charges and the removal of VAT on key inputs in the poultry industry, hundreds of Guyanese regained interest and started farming and rearing again.

Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, M.P., met with farmers in communities nationwide, to listen to their concerns and to ensure all of their challenges were addressed.

Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha M.P. and other officials look on as the technician performs the procedure on one of the agency’s animals at the relaunch of the Artificial Insemination Programme

The Central Laboratory of the Guyana Rice Development Board was recertified by the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) for testing rice and paddy.  The certification received is in conformity with the requirements of the Guyana Standard; GYS 170 of 2009 General Requirements for the operation of a laboratory.

At the handing over ceremony, Minister Mustapha highlighted the import role the laboratory has played over the years.

“This lab has to certify the quality of our production both locally and internationally… I think over the last few years this lab has played an important role and why it has played an important role? It has helped us to enhance the development in the rice industry where today, rice is one of the main contributors to the country’s GDP,” he said.

Guyana secured new rice markets including Hungary and Latvia, in Europe, while an additional consignment of 24,000 tons of rice was earmarked for Brazil.

The government also spearheaded the construction of drying floors at strategic rice producing locations to provide much needed support to farmers.

The Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Board (PTCCB) handed over a number of pesticide storage cabinets to farmers. The mini cupboards were designed with adequate space and security to store pesticides and chemicals. They will now be distributed to farmers annually.

Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha M.P. engaging with farmers in Cove and John, E.C.D

Some $14.3 billion was injected into the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), to revamp the sector which was shattered by the previous administration. The move by government to revamp and later reopen the closed factories, has already returned jobs to many.

Additionally, about $1.3 billion was exhausted to provide a one-off cash grant to severed sugar workers, in keeping with government’s plans to cushion the hardship faced by the workers. The distribution exercise saw each recipient receiving $250,000.

The ongoing construction of the two major farm–to-market roads in East Berbice, Corentyne, Region Six, will soon open up 50,000 acres of prime farmlands. These projects are among several other such road initiatives outlined last year.

Minister Mustapha in early 2021, at a sod turning ceremony, stated that the investments being made are necessary to create sustainability in this sector.

“As a government we believe investments in infrastructure are required to make the agriculture sector viable and sustainable. Without key investments in infrastructure, service delivery may not be able to take place. If we want to improve production and productivity, then as a facilitator, as a government we have to put the necessary infrastructure in place to ensure that we complement the farmers so that they can produce,” he said.

Major drainage and irrigation works were conducted during last year, as this aspect is one of priority for the ministry. The National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) exhausted billions of dollars in both capital and recurrent works in 2021.

Shot from the Corn Cultivation trial at Ebini

These significant interventions brought great relief to hundreds of residents and farmers. Due to the prolonged May-June rains, many farming communities were inundated, resulting in huge losses for many. To cushion the impact, the PPP/C government set aside some $7.6 billion to support farmers. Government Ministers travelled across the country to conduct assessments and distribute cash grants.

Farmers who cultivated cash crop, and other large-scale agriculturists received $100,000 while those who lost their kitchen gardens got $50,000.

The National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) launched the first edition of Guyana’s fruits and vegetables booklet, which captured pre-harvest and post-harvest practices, safe handling and processing.

Additionally, through a substantial amount of allocation last year, NAREI restarted its agriculture distribution programmes to rural and hinterland communities, which were halted by the previous government.

The removal of VAT on key inputs in the poultry industry and zero-rating the poultry industry were done as promised, benefitting an estimated 3,000-5,000 small farmers and broiler producers.

Some $500M was invested and works have started to provide the necessary infrastructure, which could accelerate private investment in corn and soya bean production and supporting businesses.

From a $45 million trial, which produced yields of up to two tonnes per hectare of soya bean, Guyana can soon have the potential to supply the Caribbean Community, with hopes of international expansion. Six local companies have partnered to undertake this massive project.

Meanwhile, last year the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA) relaunched its Artificial Insemination Programme for small ruminants. The resuscitation of the programme will allow hundreds of livestock farmers nationwide to increase their production.

Government, through the New Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) has invested millions of dollars, to improve the viability of the local agro-processing industry.

The agriculture ministry remains optimistic that the agro-processing facilities will function, both for commercial production, and product development for small and medium agro-processors.