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We must be reminded that Guyana currently holds lead responsibility for Agriculture, Agricultural Diversification and Food Security in CARICOM and is spearheading the regional body’s quest of reducing its US$5b food import bill. The plan is to reduce regional food importation by 25% by the year 2025. Will Guyana be the breadbasket of the Caribbean or the agricultural basket case of the Caribbean?
Despite the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP) Government’s ambitious plans to reduce food dependency by 25% by 2025, it is becoming increasingly clear that their policies lack a strategic vision for agriculture in Guyana and it is becoming increasingly unclear therefore how Guyana will lead Caricom in achieving this goal. The PPP’s plans have been criticized as being piecemeal, lacking coherency and benefiting the party’s cronies, rather than addressing the real issues facing the country’s agriculture sector.
One major issue that has been brought up is the high prices of fruits and vegetables in the marketplace, despite the PPP’s claims of increasing agricultural production to feed the nation. The failing sugar industry has also been a source of concern, with Vice President Jagdeo himself admitting its struggles yet billions of taxpayer dollars are being invested in what some citizens on social media have called a “dead dog.”
Additionally, the PPP’s flood control policies have been a failure, and soon they will announce a series of excuses as to why the program for the black belly sheep, wheat, and soybean production have all failed. The fertilizer program has also been steeped in discrimination, with PPP cronies receiving the bulk of the funds while smaller farmers received next to nothing. Even the Indian rice farmers were not compensated fairly, as some cronies received the bulk of the funds while the smaller farmers received next to nothing.
The PPP government boasts about reemploying close to 1,500 workers within the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) and plans to reopen the Rose Hall Estate during the second crop of 2023. A fact that seems to be lost on all the PPP cheerleaders is that when running a business at a loss, and there is no hope for driving down the cost of production to compete in the global marketplace, the solution is not to invest more. Minister Zulkar revealed that $4 billion dollars has been allocated to the sugar industry this year for investments at Albion, Rose Hall, Blairmont, and Uitvlugt. Why?
In terms of rice, the PPP government boasts of a plan to cultivate more than 170,000 hectares of rice in 2023, aiming to increase production to 652,103 metric tonnes. The rice industry, they share, is expected to grow by 8.3% in 2023, as the government pushes to meet its target of positioning the industry to continue its upward trajectory to achieve 1,000,000 tonnes of rice by 2025. This won’t happen, we hope it will, but it won’t.
It is clear that the PPP’s approach to management of the critical agricultural industry is one of adhockery and lacking in fairness and good common sense. Without a clear and cohesive strategy for agriculture, it is unlikely that the PPP’s goals for reducing food dependency and increasing agricultural production will be met. Instead, it seems that the PPP is more interested in doling out agricultural perks to their supporters, rather than addressing the real issues facing the country’s agriculture sector.