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It is good to know there is an effort being made to begin large scale cultivation of corn and soya bean through a government-private partnership. For too long Guyana has had the reputation of having the ability to be the Breadbasket of the Caribbean but this ability has not yet been realised. The deferment of this possibility has had much to do with the lack of vision at the national level to put in place the infrastructure, such as drainage, irrigation, availability of land, access road, and capital to make it possible.
Our drainage and irrigation system leaves much to be desired, access roads from farm to market have not been developed to the level that farmers could find it easy to bring the produce to the mainland. Capital is another sore issue particularly for small and upcoming farmers. The Guyana Agricultural and Development Bank that was established in the 1970s to make financing and technical skills available to prospective farmers was disbanded during the Bharrat Jagdeo government. This has been and continues to be a major setback to those who want to venture into commercial agriculture.
Petty, partisan politics also hindered Guyana’s ability to be the breadbasket of the region. Previous efforts at exploring new product production on a large scale and creating value added for local and international consumption fell prey to the politics of making citizens feel such investments were designed to punish them, to take them back to plantation life, rather than the nurturing of self-sufficiency and food security.
One of the lessons of the 1970-80s, during the Forbes Burnham government, when Guyana was forced, due to increase in global oil price and resultant scarce foreign exchange, to turn to local food production was met with resistance. This was instigated by partisan petty politics that the intent of the then government was to punish the people. This type of politics has done untold harm to Guyana and Guyanese for even unto today people repeat the nonsense, ignoring that other countries have since stepped up to the challenges, and Guyana today, instead of exporting are importing products that can be produced here.
It is shame to see plantain chips, tamarind balls, rice flour, soya milk, soya oil, corn meal, corn oil, etc., in the market and supermarket and they are not produced in Guyana but elsewhere. According to the online businesswirenews “global market for Rice Flour estimated at US$752.9 Million in the year 2020, is projected to reach a revised size of US$921 Million by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 2.9% over the period 2020-2027.” Guyana has no share in this market. The loss of foreign exchange and diverting the same to other more important commodities and services that cannot be produced here being imported. But such has been the nature of the politics, hopefully in 2021 this will not be, and some expect it not to be because the greatest opposition to local production is now in government. How times have changed.
The present attempt to cultivate soya and corn on a mass scale is not new to Guyana, but it could only be hoped that this time is met with success, and Guyana does make a stake in the regional and international markets. The byproducts from these two items are also encouraging. The online expertmarketresearch news reports that, “The global soybean market attained a consumption volume of 347 million metric tons between 2018 and 2020. The consumption is expected to further grow at a CAGR of 2% in the forecast period of 2021-2026 to reach a volume of 373 million metric tons by 2026.” Similar positive trend has been forecast for corn.
According to the same market research, “The global corn market reached a volume of 1118 million metric tons in 2020. The corn market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.3% between 2021 and 2026 to reach a volume of nearly 1524 million metric tons by 2026.” All the best to those who are entering this production at this level, hopefully they follow the global expectation that production is done consistent with established sustainable requirements.
Guyana’s food production has been set back for many reasons, as listed above and others, hopefully all hurdles will be cleared to capitalise on the market, local and international, and to satisfy growing taste and consumption. The benefit of creating employment and economic opportunities and foreign exchange also augur well for Guyana and Guyanese.