Guyana targets aquaculture, soya, poultry to cut food import bill – Pres. Ali
By Zena Henry
Kaieteur News – Guyana is looking to upscale its food production in key areas to avoid the pitfalls of food insecurity challenges.
Addressing numerous regional Heads of Governments and their Cabinet members, Caribbean Community officials, diplomats, dignitaries and invited guests at the inaugural Agri-Investment Forum and Expo at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre on Thursday, host of the event, President Irfaan Ali expressed the urgency at which regional leaders need to handle the business of feeding its people.
With the effects of the global pandemic and more recently, the war between Russia and Ukraine, President Ali noted that there is no clearer picture to depict the serious need for the region to address its needs. The Caribbean is working on a vision to reduce the region’s US$6B food bill by 25 percent by 2025. As for Guyana, President Ali pointed out that Guyana will invest heavily in areas such as fisheries. He told the gathering that fish stock continues to decline with a portion of such within biologically sustainable levels decreasing from 90 percent in 1974 to 65.8 percent in 2017. Of that sum, only 61.4 percent was fished within biologically sustainable levels in 2017. This stock declined by some 70 percent from 2.5million metric ton to 1.2million metric ton in 2014. By 2030, less than 50 percent of the marine stock will be fished sustainably. The President said that management measures may help but climate change will push numbers further downwards. He said any increase to fishing supplies would then come from imports or aquaculture production and expansion.
In 2020, close to 100 metric tons of fish and fish products were imported amounting close to US$340million. The path for Guyana and rest of region, the Head of State continued, must be improved management of the fisheries, investment in aquaculture to supply farm fresh and salt-water species to replace declining catches. To invest in aquaculture, to produce fishery products, to replace declining supplies, to invest in agriculture and produce the components for aquaculture feed and to convert waste and by products and to facilitate the supply of cheap power to enable processing. The President highlighted that more than G$100 million has been invested in brackish water shrimp production which increased from 250,000 kilograms a year ago to 1.2 million kilograms in a year. Another G$150 million is expected to be invested in this area to boost production by more than 50 percent, while some $40M will be invested in state research and green programmes of indigenous fresh water species fish, of which trials have begun.
Currently, 50,000 metric tons of poultry is produced in Guyana, but that number is projected to reach 90,000 metric tons by 2025. Corn and soya are currently produced at 4300 metric tons but projected to increase by 35,000 metric tons by 2025. An investment of G$651 million is said to be allocated to develop this area as a “consortium” of farmers, private sector and other relevant stakeholders continue to be devised. Three hundred and twenty-four thousand metric tons of vegetables are currently produced, but the President is pushing for 400,000 metric tons by 2025, while rice, currently produced at 560,000 metric ton is expected to push to 847,000 metric by 2025.
It was noted that fertilizer has seen a 100 percent increase as of March 2022. So much so that just days ago, President Ali allocated G$1B in fertilizers for farmers. In that regard, President Ali said that the country will be establishing its own fertilization plant as an offshoot from upcoming oil to gas project to help with input cost. “And to encourage agro -processing we intend to reduce the cost of energy by 50 percent by 2025. Those of course will boost agro processing,” the President posited. He continued that Guyana is interested in tapping into the global industrial hemp market, which reached US$12.1 billion by 2028. Legislation to regulate this industry was laid in Parliament just days ago. Guyana has already embarked on wheat trials, which have so far proven successful. The country is researching some varieties to be grown for local consumption and later expansion. Also, Guyana has partnered with Barbados to launch a food terminal with 1000 black belly sheep coming here from the island. Guyana is also helping that country with its shade house programme.
As it relates to logistics, President Ali said heavy investment has been made in ‘farm to market’ roads to support the sector. Government is also facilitating a strategic business participation plan involving the private sector, fish farmers, financial institutions, government and markets to address issues of transportation, financing, production planning, agro-processing and trade barriers among others.
President Ali wants to significantly position young people and women into some of the projects. The Administration, he said, is looking to have 20 percent of the owners of shade houses and livestock production owned by women, with another high percentage owned by young persons. President Ali noted that global food prices will continue to increase with pressure already falling on several staples. He said, “As I speak to you this morning, there is a global shortage of baby formula all across territories.” The decision is simple, President Ali noted, “If we are to secure our production, we must take action and expand… as extra regional supplies will become more costly given the anticipated global decline.”