1,000 black belly sheep being scrutinised before arriving here – Minister Mustapha

One thousand Barbados black belly sheep are currently being examined for signs of illness before arriving to Guyana’s shores, Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, M.P, has confirmed.

Speaking with reporters on the sideline of a contract signing ceremony Tuesday, at the ministry’s boardroom, the minister said the animals are expected to arrive within weeks. 

“So hopefully in another couple of weeks we can have it, because they don’t want to send them just like that, they want to quarantine the sheep and ensure there is no disease,” he said.

The Black Belly Sheep Project was launched in Mahaica-Berbice (Region Five) on March 27, as the administration moves to intensify the nation’s agriculture programme.

Farmers have already been assured that the government will give full support to the industry to prepare their fields for the initiative.

Already, 78 farmers have signalled their interest in the project and have signed up, making about 1,325 acres of their land available.

“We are going to hire, specifically for this project, a dedicated team that will in a full-time manner, work with the farmers here in support of the sector. We are building an entire machinery to work with you,” President, Irfaan Ali had stated.

He noted that with a US$3 million initial investment, 1,000 black belly sheep will arrive in the country, while another 1,000 will come in the near future.

“We have already agreed with Barbados that Guyana and Barbados would do a joint project to supply the Barbados market strictly from Guyana to start with. That is a market with a value of US $6.8 million,” the President noted.

The world import value on mutton and mutton products is US$ 8 billion. CARICOM alone imports 7,900 tonnes of mutton at US$48 million annually. The four major markets in the region are the Bahamas, Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.

From 2016 to 2019, the industry has grown in CARICOM from US $36 million to close to US$48 million.

Guyana is looking to expand its local production above 7,000 tonnes at the end of a five-year period. The approach will require a capital investment of over $231.8 billion (US$175 million) and approximately 25,000 acres of land. The expected earning is estimated at over $8.6 billion (US $43 million) annually.

“We have right within our arms’ reach a market that can generate a value of US$48 million. And who supplies CARICOM right now? Australia and New Zealand. With the cost of freight and logistics cost increases, it is becoming more and more expensive, that is why this is a low hanging fruit, CARICOM is right within our arms’ reach,” the President emphasised.

The administration wants 20 percent of the sheep farms to be led by women and 35 percent of young people below the age of 35 involved.

Government in its 2022 budget has earmarked $28.7 billion to ensure the rapid growth and development of Guyana’s agriculture sector.