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Agriculture historically has been the most important sector of the economy. But over the last seven years, it has been marginalised accounting for a declining percentage of the national economy. Since the emergence of oil sector five years ago, it has been largely ignored. And over the last two years, it has been plagued by ineptitude and scandals. Is government setting up the agriculture sector for failure? Is a cabinet reshuffle in the works?
In spite of the countless complaints in the media and editorials of the two truly independent publications, there has not been an inquiry into the US$12.5 million Enmore Packaging plant and its lease to a political figure, sheet piling, trawler licensing, approval of Chinese agro-businesses, land grants, Guysuco fiasco, closure of the four sugar estates, re-tendering of contracts at NDIA, high turnover of staff at NDIA and Guysuco, pump fiasco, farm relief (attributed to floods), payments for flood works especially for work not done, rice farmers’ paddy payments, among others. Money was passed on to friends of politicians followed by kickbacks. Rumour has it that Guysuco operations at LBI will be closed and staff redundant by end of year. There were complaints about the highest bidder getting contracts for agro works, the work not completed on time or not done at all, and yet the contractor not penalized on account of political or religious affiliation. There were complaints that contracts were given to unqualified bidders as in building pump stations – a job that requires specialist expertise but given to friend who lack capacity.
There are complaints of politicians owning contract companies in the names of others who have been awarded contracts. It is not different from politicians giving themselves contracts to do government work. There is a millers’ cartel against paddy farmers. Rice farmers had to protest to get a fair deal. Fishermen can’t catch enough fish to cover cost of operations; fish may have been driven away by oil exploration and pumping. The public is urging compensation for fishermen
There is a lack of or inadequate support for the poor and deserving farmers to encourage farm and aqua culture production. Government is giving lip service to farmers. Some large Middle Eastern companies are being recruited to establish agriculture in Guyana at the sugar estates. Ultimately, they will displace small farmers and sugar workers. Is government working against the poor and underserved?
Is it government’s policy to destroy the Agriculture sector? Isn’t it time for an inquiry into neglect of agriculture?