Finance Minister outlines $1.5B agriculture diversification plan

Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh during his budget presentation two Mondays ago

THE sum of $1.5B has been budgeted for agriculture diversification initiatives this year.
This was announced by Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh, who emphasised during his 2014 budget presentation that the challenge facing Guyana and the world today is the creation of sustainable food production systems within the context of climate change.He said the Government intends to remain focused and proactive in ensuring that all of the value chain actors, farmers, agro-processors and exporters, capitalise on the many opportunities available in the sector and are equipped to confront the threats they might face.
“Our food security drive will see an intensified ‘Grow More Food’ campaign, aimed to achieve a more secure domestic food supply as well as food production levels that permit both expanded exports and reduced imports,“ he explained.
The Minister recalled that in 2013, a total of $2B was spent on agriculture diversification initiatives.
These included work on strengthening the legislative framework with the completion of draft bills for animal welfare, food safety and food exports while the drafting of a traceability regulation is ongoing.
Veterinarian legislation was enacted, too, all with the aim of bringing Guyana more in line with international trade requirements.

Additionally, various efforts were undertaken to strengthen the agriculture sub-sectors, including more than 200 persons being trained in aquaculture production while 5,800 farmers received training in crop production.
Improved breeds of ducks, sheep, pigs and cattle were procured and the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory was, substantially, completed and staff identified and trained for its operations.
A total of 17 community based organisations received financing for various agricultural related developmental projects and more than $400M was spent on seeds, fertiliser, planting materials and extension services.
inister Singh said, in 2014, as part of the continued drive to increase large scale private investments in the sector a 10,000 acre Canje Basin investment will be added to the landscape joining the Santa Fe mega-farm venture.
It is expected that potential crops under the Canje Basin project will include rubber, acacia, corn, soya, quinoa and legumes, with the focus on increasing exports to Trinidad and Tobago.
Government will also promote sustainable development of inland fisheries and aquaculture, and support fishermen in rebuilding cooperatives and simplifying the licence system for artisanal fishing.
Government will also establish a Guyana Agriculture Research Oversight Committee (GAROC) to implement the national agriculture research agenda.
He said focus will be placed on enhancing milk production to reduce its imports, along with promoting greater self-sufficiency in producing poultry and other meat.

Emphasis will be placed, as well, on expanding the range of crops to reduce importation with specific attention to carrots, garlic, cauliflower, broccoli, tumeric, ginger and blackpepper, with the objective of reducing import volumes.
Government will work closely, too, with supply chain agents to lower transportation and transaction costs and with farmers to ensure a constant flow of raw material while the Guyana Shop will extend its service to other locations across this country and overseas.
In addition, Minister Singh concluded that the resilience of the sector will be bolstered with the launch of the Agriculture Disaster Risk Management Plan.
As he put it: “We will move to enhance the Early Warning Systems (EWS) and commence the execution of the Pesticide and Toxic Chemical Emergency Response Plan.”
By Clifford Stanley