Georgetown, Guyana – (October 16, 2017) President David Granger said that agriculture will continue to be a mainstay of Guyana’s economy as it has the potential to guarantee national and regional food security through increased investment, innovation and intensification of the agro-industrial sector. Delivering the feature address at this year’s World Food Day Exhibition and Fair in Linden in Upper Demerara-Berbice (Region Ten), the Head of State explained that in order for Guyana to reclaim its enviable title as ‘the food basket of the Caribbean’ there must be a shift in production patterns to satisfy market demands and a realignment of agricultural production to meet the demands of local, national, regional and international markets.
“There must be more investment and encouragement on the part of the region for farming and agriculture; there must be innovation. We cannot go on doing the same things over and over again. We have to start thinking about packaging. We have to start thinking about markets. We have to start thinking about canning… The message of this Food Day is that you can do it; what I want you to understand is that we can produce food for all. I want you to aim for that and make sure that this World Food Day is understood at every level, at the level of the individual, at the level of the family and household, at the level of the municipality, at the level of the regional administration, at the level of Central Government and at the level of the Caribbean Community [CARICOM],” he said.
The recent hurricanes, which have severely damaged the agricultural sectors of some Eastern Caribbean islands coupled with adverse and extreme weather patterns caused by climate change, food security continued to be threatened. President Granger, who has been advocating for a ‘green economy’ and a sustainable model for development, explained that climate change can also affect food production by accelerating the spread of pests and plant diseases; altering soil fertility and increasing soil erosion and affecting plant pollination and the stability of fishing grounds.
Nevertheless, with the exception of seasonal floods and drought, Guyana has been spared the brunt of the perils of unstable and catastrophic weather patterns. In fact, the country enjoys a measure of food security in meat, rice, root tubers and vegetables. However, access to food remains uneven with pockets of extreme poverty, particularly in some hinterland communities. The President said that Guyana can ensure improved access to nutritional food for its population but it must address the deficiencies in national food security to take its place as a provider of ‘food for all’ for the country and the Caribbean. He also cautioned Guyanese against becoming complacent as a food secure nation.
“Every time there is extreme weather, you might find more insect pests and soil erosion. Climatic changes will affect food production. So don’t believe that because right now we are food secure, it will go on forever. There has to be greater environmental consciousness and within the Caribbean Region, this is something we must take very seriously,” the Head of State said.
Speaking of Guyana’s position in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the President reinforced the country’s commitment to the establishment of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and to the advancement of the principles outlined in strategies such as the Caribbean Community Agricultural Policy (2011); the CARICOM Agribusiness Development Strategy of 2012; CARICOM Regional Food and Nutrition Security Policy (2010), and Action Plan (2011); and in the Liliendaal Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security of 2009.
The President also pointed out that the Caribbean Region can ensure greater food security by helping to reduce its mammoth food import bill of more than US$ 4B per year, particularly through implementation of the Caribbean Community’s Agricultural Policy (CAP) calls for increased investment in the agriculture food sector; the adoption of innovation and technologies across value chains and for the development of strong agro-processing industries.
“Let us think Caribbean, let us think about the whole Region. Every year, the Caribbean imports about US $4B worth of food. Much of that food could be produced right here in Guyana and it is for places like Region 10 to take a step forward to increase its food production to get a bite of that big food import bill,” he said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Noel Holder in his remarks informed that the intermediate savannahs of Region Ten has been earmarked as Guyana’s new agricultural frontier as the country continues its quest to narrow the developmental gap between the coastland and the hinterland. Additionally, agricultural stations are being established at all of the major eco-zones across the country.
“These stations will demonstrate the agricultural potential the various areas, establish nurseries for planting materials, provide herds of cattle and small ruminants to provide breeding stock for farmers and provide seed stocks for entrepreneurs. These initiatives will create new employment opportunities, both directly and indirectly, as the country’s economic base moves inland and will compliment other activities such as mining, forestry and support services,” the Minister said.
United Nations Representative, Ms. Mikiko Tanaka reminded that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is about a good life for all now and onwards to 2030. She noted that for Guyana, sustainable agriculture is essential in order to citizens to have good, nutritious food. Nutritious food on the other hand, is essential for a good life.
The theme for this year’s World Food Day observance is, “Change the future of migration-Invest in food security and rural development”. Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Dr. Graziano da Silva in his World Food Day Message which was read at today’s event by FAO Representative, Mr. Ruben Robertson said that decent employment opportunities, which can be generated by productive agriculture and supporting activities ranging from seed research and credit provision to storage infrastructure and food processing businesses, are urgently needed to convince a fast-growing number of young people in rural areas that there are better fates than hazardous journeys to unknown destinations.
“FAO is working to address the root causes of migration. This means promoting policy options that favour vulnerable people. It includes youth job training and inclusive access to credit, crafting social protection programmes that offer cash or in-kind transfers, specific measures to support those returning to rural areas of origin, and offering assistance for the provision of seeds, fertilizers and animal-health services, fine-tuning early warning systems for weather risks and by working for sustainable natural resource and land use,” the Director General said.
Representative of the International Organisation on Migration (IOM), Mr. Robert Natiello also spoke of the theme of changing migration; noting that food insecurity is often a motive for migration and a mechanism to seek out alternative income-generating opportunities. He added that IOM will continue to work with Government of Guyana and the FAO to ensure that when people migrate, they do so as a matter of choice rather than a necessity.
Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Jaipaul Sharma and Minister within the Ministry of Communities, Mr. Valerie Patterson-Yearwood were also present at today’s event which attracted hundreds of people including school children at the Bayrock Ground. There were a number of booths and stalls showcasing local produce from the agriculture and manufacturing sectors.
World Food Day promotes worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and for the need to ensure food security and nutritious diets for all. It also provides the platform for countries to demonstrate their commitment to achieving Sustainable Development Goal number two (SDG 2), which is to achieve zero hunger by 2030.