DAVID Granger’s Food security in Guyana: enough food for everyone is an exposition of the relationship between economic resilience, food security and regional development. It reflects the thinking of a national leader who is cognisant of the peculiarities, prospects and potential of each of his country’s 10 administrative regions.
The book consists of addresses delivered by the President at events, mainly to commemorate World Food Day and to launch Regional Agricultural and Commercial Exhibitions held in various administrative regions. Each administrative region is different from the next. The development of a food security programme for the country, therefore, has to take account of the strengths and challenges of each region.
Food security in Guyana: enough food for everyone achieves this objective. David Granger’s plans for food security are tailored to match each region’s conditions, circumstances and capabilities. The President, addressing residents of
* Barima-Waini, envisaged it contributing to making this country and the Eastern Caribbean food-secure.
* Demerara-Mahaica, encouraged it to become a bellwether for the economic transformation of other regions;
* Essequibo Islands-West Demerara, explained his government’s plans for agricultural expansion;
* Mahaica-Berbice, emphasised the role of agricultural diversification in creating employment;
* Upper Demerara-Upper-Berbice, challenged the region to become a “farmyard for agricultural production and a workshop for agro-industrialisation”; and,
* Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo, identified it as the next agricultural frontier.
The President is on record, also, of having delivered similarly pertinent addresses to public agro-industrial events in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni, East Berbice-Corentyne, Pomeroon-Supenaam and Potaro-Siparuni regions, which are not included in this collection. He founded a series entitled Regional Agricultural and Commercial Exhibitions – RACE – through which he encouraged each region to conduct an annual fair to foster agro-processing and the emergence of small- and micro-enterprises. The President declared the first Saturday in October, every year, as ‘National Tree Day’ to promote the planting and preservation of trees, particularly fruit and food-bearing trees as well as for environmental protection.
The book is a rich resource on research into food security – a term of art that implies the availability of food in sufficient quantities, accessibility by everyone and is acceptable in terms of dietary, nutritional and health needs.
Hinterland regions, in particular, have been known to suffer from occasional food shortages, especially during times of drought and floods. The remoteness of some communities and high transportation costs can also affect local food-supply chains.
David Granger approaches the question of food security from an economic and social perspective. Food security, he argues, must be concerned not merely with eradicating hunger and reducing poverty, but must also form the basis of strong regional economies. He envisages a country of economically strong regions with food production forming the backbone of regional economies. He ascribes to food security the role of ensuring greater economic security.
Food production, he argues, will not only satisfy the nutritional needs of residents but will also strengthen the regional economies and allow them to become agro-processors and food exporters – two of the major incentives for increasing food production.
This emphasis on food security may come as a surprise. Guyana, after all, is already a petroleum-producing state, the discovery representing the most transformative development in the country’s history. President Granger, however, is hedging his country’s future not on petroleum but on food production. He envisages Guyana as a food basket with the potential to export food to the Caribbean and beyond.
Guyana is food secure in six food groups – foods from animals, legumes, vegetables, fruits, fats and oils and staples. It may appear paradoxical, therefore, that the President would devote eight addresses, over a period of five years to examining this issue. Guyana is already a major food exporter. Its food exports, consisting mainly of unprocessed commodities, however, are subject to the vagaries of international commodity markets. This has made the country highly vulnerable to exogenous shocks. Granger’s vision is for the building of greater economic resilience by diversifying production and moving it higher up the value chain through agro-processing and marketing.
The President attracted ill-informed ridicule for his emphasis on small-scale, food- processing initiatives. His encouragement of small-scale food processing has been parodied as aiming for a ‘plantain-chips’ economy. His critics, however, missed the valuable linkages of small-scale food-processing to income security, poverty-alleviation and employment, particularly for young people, poor households and women.
Food security in Guyana: enough food for everyone is a timely publication. A global crisis is unfolding. The world, at present, is fighting a deadly pandemic which has disrupted the global economy and which will have far-reaching economic consequences. The demand for food is expected to increase by 70 per cent by the year 2050. Food crises, invariably, accompany economic crises. The global financial crisis in 2008, for example, was followed by a food crisis which witnessed the prices of certain food commodities increasing, placing severe strain on countries with high food-import bills.
The President’s vision and the emphasis which he has laid on food production will cushion his country from future stresses occasioned by global food shortages. Guyana stands to benefit, also, by increasing its food production, given the projected demand for more food. The United Nations World Food Programme projects that the number of persons who are food-insecure will almost double in 2020 owing to international conflicts and the COVID-19 pandemic. Increasing food production makes good economic sense in this context. Guyana, which is blessed with large tracts of arable lands, skilled agricultural workers and comparative advantages in certain foods, stands to benefit from increasing food production.
President David Granger has set the country on the right path. His policies will help to secure it from threats to food insecurity, while catalyzing the economic potential of agriculture.
Food security in Guyana: enough food for everyone presents invigorating perspectives which challenge traditional approaches to the subject. Its special appeal is its emphasis on the often understated and underrated role of food production as an instrument for economic empowerment. The book is emblematic of the President’s drive to ensure that no person goes to bed hungry, that everyone enjoys opportunities for income-generation and that the country at large will have no reason to fear future global food crises. Food security is not an ephemeral phenomenon. The world will always need food. The growth of the world’s population will increase, continuously, the demand for food. Not every state, however, will be food-secure.
President Granger, through the policies which he enunciated in this book has laid the foundation for Guyana’s emergence as a major regional food producer. He has cemented his reputation as a visionary and provident statesman, with this publication.