BUDGET 2021 being the largest to ever be set in Guyana, is projected to take the country to greater heights. The agriculture sector was neglected in the last five years and a sector that has massive potential for sustaining food security, not only in Guyana, but regionally and internationally, which also accounts for 27.1 per cent of the non-oil GDP and 21.3 per cent of the non-oil export (2020), should not be taken for granted. The budget aims to minimise the challenges faced by farmers and help them to reach their maximum potential. The agriculture sector which is one of the largest sectors in the country was allocated $22.6 billion in 2021. Guyana has many farmers and over the years they have been facing many challenges such as poor drainage and irrigation systems, poor infrastructure, taxes on machinery and equipment, along with fertilisers and chemicals, limited farming lands, increased land rents and limited markets.
GuySuCo having been left to fend for itself under the APNU+AFC government, has been allocated $ 2billion. With a new management team, the company will work towards securing new markets and providing new, packaged sugar that the market demands both locally, regionally and internationally, which will be more profitable for the company than the low-value bulk sugar. The government is assessing the cost of rehabilitating the three closed estates into profit-seeking centres and looking into possible public-private partnerships and agro-industrial and agro-energy opportunities, along with product diversification. The government knows the importance of the sugar industry to the economy. GuySuCo employs the majority of the country’s workforce and the closure of sugar will result in another devastating impact on the economy as it did when three of the sugar estates were closed by the APNU+AFC government.
The rice industry also has been struggling over the last five years.
The government seeks to assist these farmers by reversing the increases in land rents and taxes on agricultural equipment, machinery, fertilisers and chemicals. For instance, the rice farmers under the Mahaica/Mahaicony/Abary – Agricultural Development Authority will now see about $1.3 billion back in their hands annually, with the reversal of land-rent increases. The budget accounts for enhanced research and development into areas such as high-yielding varieties of rice, adoption of new technologies to maximise productivity and increased maintenance of drainage and irrigation systems, farm-to-market-roads and the establishment of new markets. The government will also invest in constructing six dry floors in Regions Two, Three, Five and Six, which are much-needed by the farmers. Value-added rice products are also on the agenda. The government aims to keep the importation of vegetables at a minimum in order to promote locally produced non-traditional crops to reach market demands, and as such, the government is providing resources for 100 shade houses to be constructed throughout the country.
Assistance will be provided to farmers who are associated with citrus production in areas such as the Pomeroon, Region Three, and the Soesdyke-Linden Highway. Support will also be given to fruit production to satisfy the demands of domestic fruit juice manufacturers. As such, the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) was allocated over $1.2 billion. Three new crops have been introduced to the local market on a wide scale – coconuts, corn and soya.
Coconut farmers will benefit from government-funded nurseries in Wakenaam, Leguan, Canal No. 2 and No. 63 Village on the Corentyne, which will each produce 1,500 to 3,000 coconut seedlings every three months. Farmers will also have access to affordable, high-quality planting materials and technical training. Budget 2021 provides over $70 million to support Hope Coconut Estate Limited.
Corn farmers will benefit from 100 acres of planting materials at affordable prices. Corn is a staple crop which is highly imported by food sellers. The government aims to have this commodity be readily available for local markets to minimise importation. The government has allocated $500 million in providing support in the production of soya bean and corn. The Intermediate Savannah has massive potential for the agriculture sector. The targeted crops for this area include soya beans, corn, citrus and other fruits, along with aquaculture and cattle rearing. The government has allocated $806 million for the livestock sector, which will be used to establish processing facilities, certification processes and tap into new markets regionally and internationally.
Investments will also be made into two abattoirs for pork and pork products (Garden of Eden) and beef and beef products (Onverwagt). In 2021, $12 billion has been allocated for drainage and irrigation works throughout the country such as construction and rehabilitation of pump stations, improving access to farms in the interior regions, along with water-harvesting mechanisms for the dry seasons and reduction of flood-risks initiatives. The agriculture sector will experience major transformation within the next five years. Unlike the previous government, this government will deliver on its promises as it aims to move the country forward in becoming a developed country in the Caribbean.