Guyana – The Agricultural Investment Hub of the Region By Aditya Persaud

Written by

Today, agriculture is one of the biggest businesses in
the world. This world is demanding more food now
than ever before to simply feed a growing population.
As it is, the world’s population has moved from 6.9 billion
in 2010 to a whopping 7.7 billion in 2018. What does this
mean for a country like Guyana?
Guyana, a country with a land mass of 215,000 square
kilometers and a population of just over 700,000 people, is
now being eyed by investors more than ever before.
The Agriculture Sector is one of the largest areas for
investment in Guyana’s economy. More than $50B is
invested in current expenditure each year by small scale and
large farming enterprises. Agriculture can be safely seen as
one of the most important productive sectors of Guyana’s
economy.
The sector still accounts for over 20% of the GDP in our
current economy and still remains one of Guyana’s main
export drivers. However, due to the closure of various sugar
estates, the export of sugar has declined and this has indeed
led to major shifts in those export numbers.
Rice, nevertheless, has shown a continuous increase in
exports and the figures have gone past the 500,000 tonnes
from since 2015. In 2017, that number had moved to
535,830 tonnes at a value of approximately US$200,000,000
(GRDB, 2018). This clearly shows that there is scope for an
increase of rice production to satisfy current and prospective
markets which may be right within the Region or more so,
the Americas.
Over the years, there has been a constant increase in
non-traditional agricultural exports. In 2017, there was a
recorded 25% increase valued at GY$3.6B or US$17M in
non-traditional exports (GMC, 2018). This signals well for
the sector as a whole. Prior to this, exports in the area of
non-traditional produce were not sending positive signals.
However, that would have changed due to the increasing
demands and markets for high quality, fresh and naturally
grown produce which can be produced very competitively
within Guyana’s agricultural climate.
Guyana prides itself as being a ‘food secure’ nation. This
is mainly due to the main agricultural drivers such as fertile
land and readily available fresh water along with farmers
who have a passion for production in their respective areas
of farming. We can safely say that we have an abundance of
cash crops, rice, sugar, poultry, swine, beef, fish and fruits;
and surely, we can produce more of these to satisfy export
markets.
It is evident that demand for agricultural produce will
continue to grow and we should not sit idly and wait for that
to happen by not starting to plan now. We already know
what the market is demanding and we have the land mass
and space to cultivate most of these produce. Hence, it is
critical that proper planning be implemented to ensure that
we tap into all existing and new markets.
Food security and availability is becoming of paramount
importance in our modern world and among our neighbouring
countries.
Successes of the Agriculture Sector
As a nation, we have much to be proud about when it
comes to agriculture. The fact that we are food secure and free
of certain diseases, such as “foot and mouth” in the livestock
industry, means a lot for our marketing potentials. We have
Guyana –
The Agricultural
Investment Hub
of the Region
By Aditya Persaud
40 Guyana Inc. 35th Edition
mastered the art of rice cultivation while developing our
own varieties, which is done by our own scientists (trained
abroad). We have achieved almost 90% mechanization in
the rice industry. The drainage and irrigation system has
been upgraded to meet the every demand of the respective
industries (rice, sugar, cash crops, livestock, etc.).
We have witnessed farmers adapting climate smart
techniques and technology to ensure consistent production
to meet their market demands. Our laws and regulations
have clamped down on Illegal pesticides which severely
affect the health and wellbeing of our citizens. These have
long term side effects on our population.
There has been an increase in commodities like the
5Cs (citrus, coconuts, cocoa, cassava, cattle) and the 4Ps
(pepper, pineapples, pumpkin, plantain). This is mainly
due to the markets that existed for these items.
We have also witnessed improvements in our
veterinary laboratories’ modern technologies, such as
Embryo Transfer, which has led to improved breeds and,
in turn, better quality of livestock production and end
products in that sector.
But even with all of these success stories, the sector
is just producing enough to meet the demands of our
Guyanese consumers. We do not have the capacity to
export excessive quantities as yet, but there is nothing
stopping our farmers and producers from meeting these
demands and commencing exportation.
Shortcomings of the Agricultural Sector
Indeed, failure has been as much a part of the sector
as success. There are quite a few areas where the system
in which we operate has failed the sector. Starting from
the production line upwards, we can examine some that
are of major concern.
Firstly, the initial investment cost for agricultural
projects are usually very high, unlike certain other areas
of businesses. This high cost is most times a deterrent
factor for small and medium scale investors. This is also
coupled with the high interest rates at most of the lending
institutions. On the other hand, if we cannot grow to meet
certain quantities, we cannot secure local and overseas
market.
To cite an example, a buyer from neighboring French
Guiana sought to pack a twenty-foot container of preripened tomatoes weekly. The tomatoes are packed
in ventilated cardboard boxes. The buyer indicated
that his company will handle all logistics which takes
the “headache” away from the supplier(s) or farmer.
However, looking at our capacity, if we were to take all
the tomatoes produced locally and pack this container,
we would not be able to fill four containers monthly. The
reality is, our farmers have to be trained and need to build
capacity to operate in groups or cooperatives in order to
satisfy these types of markets.
Secondly, our agricultural production system has never
considered zoning of non-traditional crops. We have
been growing crops such as rice and sugar on the coastal
belt for over 100 years. However, to become the “bread
basket” of the region, we have to also consider zoning
of cash crops, livestock and fruits in order to become a
consistent supplier for commercial quantities. What does
this mean for Guyana?
Zoning is the systematic and controlled use of land for
livestock and the production of crops to produce food for
humans. The purpose of agricultural zoning is to protect
farmland from incompatible uses that would adversely
affect the long-term economic viability of the area within
that specific region. Zoning accomplishes this purpose in
several ways. Mainly, zoning protects agricultural land
by minimizing land use conflicts and precluding land use
controversies. If our system were to consider zoning, then
monitoring and verification of production activities will
become more manageable. Also, logistics planning and
cost will reduce significantly.
Thirdly, air transport and logistics have severely
affected our export operations in Guyana. Guyana does
not have a designated cargo flight to move produce, so
suppliers have to depend heavily on commercial airlines
to move cargo. The cost for moving produce becomes
higher and most items cannot compete in overseas market.
Added to this list, our agricultural production system
also lacks trained and dedicated human resource, political
will, a workable strategic plan, an agri-development
bank, insufficient value addition to commodities and
mechanization of non-traditional production and
harvesting systems.
Recommendations: Possible Areas of
Investment
Guyana stands ready to welcome investments in
numerous areas in the agricultural sector. The world trends
are demanding better quality and safer food. Consumers
are demanding traceability of their fresh food products
as well as ensuring that these foods meet the requisite
standards. Guyana is poised to meet these demands.
Some of the possible areas of investments include,
agro processing, milk production, aquaculture (prawns,
tambaqui, and tilapia), small ruminants production to
meet regional markets and cash crop exports for the
Caribbean and North America.
Other possible areas of investments include new crops,
such as Quinoa. Quinoa is one of the most demanded
healthy foods in the world today. It is produced in other
parts of South America. We have the right soil type to
commence production. It is assured that every pound will
be sold. The lands from the closed sugar estates can be
considered for such production.
Rubber plantations, citrus plantations, coconut
plantations, and roots, vines and tubers mega farms are
all areas that have high returns on investments.
Rice cereals (from our local rice) and jaggery (made
from sugar) are two other commodities that can be
packaged and shipped to overseas markets, and on
the plus side, Guyana has a history of being excellent
producers.
There are numerous other areas, but we will surely
speak of these in future articles.

Article Categories:
Daily Updates

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Menu Title