Lack of education contributing to misconception of modern agriculture
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President, Dr Irfaan Ali delivering the keynote speech at the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association’s (GMSA) 26th Annual Presentation of Awards Ceremony at the Ramada Princess Hotel, Providence, East Bank Demerara
President, Dr Irfaan Ali delivering the keynote speech at the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association’s (GMSA) 26th Annual Presentation of Awards Ceremony at the Ramada Princess Hotel, Providence, East Bank Demerara

— says President, urges investment in the sector

OWING to hesitancy to pursue and invest in modern agricultural techniques which can be credited to a lack of education in the sector, in a country with vast arable land and a copious freshwater supply, the true agricultural potential of Guyana remains untapped.

“There is a misconception of what modern agro-processing and agriculture is,” President Irfaan Ali told the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) at their 26th Annual Presentation of Awards Ceremony at the Ramada Princess Hotel at Providence, East Bank Demerara, last Friday.

“If I ask here how many people believe that agro-processing is an area that is sustainable and could provide wealth for you, put your hands up, and how many of you are willing to invest in it – the showing will be very poor,” the President told the gathering.

Delivering the keynote speech at the event held under the theme, “Changing the paradigm for advancing sustainable industry, transformation and growth,” the Head of State identified that due to a systematic failure to re-educate the population on modern agricultural techniques and agro-processing, the misconception prevails.

He related that during his visit to Glasgow, Scotland for his attendance at the 26th United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), he had the opportunity to witness youths involved in agriculture, who are growing high-valued crops in modern shade houses.

Impressed by model, President Ali disclosed that upon his return to Guyana he shared the idea with the Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha, and requested that the model be implemented locally.

He also recommended the idea to a group of local small and medium scale fisherfolk, with whom he met, as a means of supplementing their income after they complained of a decline in their fish catches; however, they were not receptive of the idea.

“I asked the fisherfolk ‘how many of you guys own the small boats’, they said ‘71’; so, I said let us pursue this idea. Their immediate response was ‘you sending us back to the garden again?’ – that was the immediate response … very important for us to understand the power of that response” President Ali said.

SYSTEMATIC FAILURE
The response from the fisherfolk is consequent to a systematic failure on the part of the government and the manufacturers association to re-educate the population on the new realities and opportunities which exists, the Head of State opined.

“But we will pursue this project. Imagine if we have 200 young persons, young entrepreneurs with their own shade house doing broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. Just think about it. That is what is going to lead to sustainability,” President Ali explained.

He shared that these missed opportunities which are not being capitalised on by Guyanese are being sought after by international investors.

“We had the Qatar Investment Fund coming in, and they went crazy when they saw the freshwater potential of the country, and now they are looking at us as a possible hub to produce food for them,” President Ali told the gathering while noting, “the potential is there, how do we capture it?”

The development of the agro-processing industry remains a priority for the Government of Guyana, particularly the Ministry of Agriculture. To this end, in excess of $800 million have been earmarked for the establishment of six agro-processing facilities across the country.

This was disclosed by Mustapha at a virtual United Nations (UN) Food Systems forum in May 2021. He said the facilities are slated to be established in farming communities, notably Aranaputa and St. Ignatius in Region Nine; Black Bush Polder in Region Six; and Leguan in Region Three

Further, according to a Department of Public Information report dated October 11, 2021, government, through the New Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) has expended $158.5 million of the budgeted $293 million to improve the viability of the local agro-processing industry.

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