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Some $236M has been budgeted for the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) to help producers increase their profitability by improving value-added products.
Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha Minister Mustapha made the comment during his feature address to a webinar on agriculture and agro-processing on Wednesday.
“For Budget 2020, Guyana Marketing Corporation has been allocated $236 million to support institutional market arrangements, strengthen value chain; work with farmers to be in compliance with quality standards and food safety systems, and expand new high value processed markets for Guyana products,” Minister Mustapha said.
He noted that not only would it expand the agricultural sector, but that it would prove vital in a post-COVID-19 economy.
“We must focus on ways to expand, shift agriculture from primary producer to value-added; to reduce the 41 per cent dependence on imports, which includes, processed products, dairy products, grains such as corn and soybean et cetera. This expansion will aid in the reduction of our domestic food import bill of GUY$45 billion,” Minister Mustapha said.
While food availability is not a challenge locally, interruptions in the supply chain do pose issues which result in loss of income. The Government is working to lessen constraints in the sector by reversing value-added tax (VAT) on some exports, agriculture equipment, fertilisers, agrochemicals and pesticides, among other items. It is also reverting to the land rent and draining and irrigation fees that were paid prior to the 2015 elections.
Additionally, the Government also plans to reduce the cost of energy by 50 per cent through a mix of hydro, gas, solar, and wind power, over the next five years.
Minister Mustapha also underscored the importance of agriculture to Guyana’s economy.
“This sector is too important to Guyana for us to allow it to be left behind. Agriculture has always been an important contributor to our economic growth and social development. It contributes 20 per cent to the national GDP, approximately G$70 billion to the foreign earnings, and employs 17 per cent of our population.”
Meanwhile, President of the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GM&SA), Shyam Nokta noted that the measures announced have fostered renewed interest in overseas investors.
Inter-American Development Bank Country Representative Sophie Makonnen and other representatives of the Agriculture Ministry and the GM&SA also attended the meeting.
The webinar was held under the theme: “Opportunities for Strengthening the Value Chain and Expanding Agriculture in a post-COVID-19 Environment.” (DPI)