President Dr Irfaan Ali said that Guyana is leading the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) efforts to reduce its food importation bill by 25 per cent by 2025 through the implementation of transformative projects in the country.
These projects, he explained, will significantly increase the productivity of priority commodities.
The Head of State made the revelation on Friday while delivering remarks virtually at the launch of the 17th Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2023, being held under the theme, ‘Accelerating Vision 25 by 2025’.
He explained that the transformative projects in Guyana include corn and soya production and other high-value crops.
Similarly, the country has significantly increased coconut production; the productivity of the rice industry and the productivity of the livestock and poultry industries.
The government is also constructing more shade houses across the country and resuscitating the cocoa and coffee industries, among a number of other initiatives.
President Ali explained that as of the first half of 2023, Guyana has cultivated over 3,000 acres of soybeans and over 1,200 acres of corn.
“We have committed that by the end of 2026, we will have 50,000 acres of land cultivated in corn and soya. This is a co-investment between the developers and the Government.”
When this project is fully matured by 2026, it will be one of the largest investments in the region at approximately US$40 million.
Additionally, Guyana recently launched a new programme that will see 2000 acres of land dedicated to the production of black-eyed peas and red beans. This will be an investment of more than US$5 million.
“Coconut production is expected to increase by over 200% from 30,000 metric tonnes (MT) in 2020 to 100,000 MT in 2025. There have been over 5,000 newly established acres of coconut cultivated from January 2021 to June 2023, with 10 new coconut nurseries being established from 2020 to 2022. Interestingly and importantly, these nurseries will also serve the needs of CARICOM.”
President Ali added that the production of high-value crops, including carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, is being prioritised and promoted in Guyana through the establishment of shade houses across the country by farmers.
According to the President, under Guyana’s Agriculture and Innovation Entrepreneurship Programme, over 300 shade houses will be constructed to cultivate and target high-value crops.
“These shade houses and programmes have led to promising results from the cultivation of a small batch of wheat variety. Wheat production trials have been expanded at two locations across Guyana, and the success of these trials can lead to large-scale production of wheat in Guyana.”
Guyana is also in the process of resuscitating cocoa and coffee. So far, coffee and cocoa plants have been distributed in hinterland areas. This programme is expected to significantly increase the production of cocoa and coffee.
Rice continues to be the main staple in Guyana and in many CARICOM countries. Increased productivity is being achieved through research and development into new strains.
The introduction of the Guyana Rice Development Board’s (GRDB) 16 varieties in 2020 is one such example. Research is also ongoing on a bio-fortified zinc rice variety.
Additionally, the Seed Paddy Programme of the GRDB was strengthened with the production of approximately 31,500 bags of high-quality seeds. Rice production is expected to increase by 12 per cent from about 560,000 MT in 2021 to more than 625,000 MT in 2023.
In the livestock industry, meat production is expected to increase by 43 per cent from more than 47,000 MT in 2020 to more than 67,000 MT in 2023, while it is projected to grow by 50 per cent in 2025.
“Through collaboration with Barbados, Guyana aims to increase its mutton production, with the Mahaica/Berbice Administrative Region (Region Five) poised to become the livestock capital of CARICOM. As part of this programme, 1,000 Black Belly Sheep are being supplied by the Government of Barbados, with 473 having been received thus far. The 3rd shipment is expected shortly.”
The President added that 13,000 acres of pastures have been developed for cattle farmers for the advancement of the livestock industry while the construction of international standard Porcine and Bovine Abattoirs are underway.
Increasing dairy production is being pursued through the construction of two dairy processing facilities. These two facilities, when completed, would see an investment of more than US$30m.
“Guyana continues to make major strides in the fisheries sector with the implementation of various initiatives aimed to expand productivity. More than US$2 million has been invested in aquaculture development. With 83 ponds constructed and 37 farmers benefiting from pond rehabilitation and improvement of drainage and irrigation facilities. Brackish water shrimp production has increased by almost 500 per cent.”
The production of prawns and the lucrative marine culture cage project are also expected to further boost Guyana’s aquaculture sector. An amount of $173 million was allocated in 2023 for the Skeldon Shrimp Project, and Guyana will also launch a major marine cage project in its waterways.
The private sector, the President explained, has to also play an important task in advancing CARICOM’s vision.
CARICOM’s Ministerial Task Force on Agriculture and the Caribbean Private Sector Organisation (CPSO) have so far partnered to identify commodities that will receive regional policy support.
These include poultry, corn, soybeans and rice for feed production, meat (beef, pork and mutton), niche vegetables and coconut products.