As Guyana gears up to be a significant oil producer in the Caribbean and Latin American region, warnings about the potential neglect of other sectors, such as agriculture, and the resulting impact this could have on the country of 750,000 people, continue to be made.
The agriculture sector is responsible for one of the largest share of private employment in the country says a former Minister of Agriculture, indirectly impacting close to 200,000 households in all ten regions.
“This sector cannot just disappear without creating economic and social upheavals. It’s a matter of survival for families as it is part of the foundation of the country’s economic and social society,” Robert Persaud wrote in his weekly column, Are we Ready for Prime Time?
The former agriculture minister who later served as Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, said focus on oil and gas should not pose a direct threat to agriculture. “I would posit, with the appropriate strategy and a conducive policy environment, O&G could be the much-required transformational boost for this traditional sector.”
Warning that Guyana should ensure it does not fall victim to poor management of oil revenue which could see it suffering the same fate as neighbouring Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago, Persaud said O&G can make the country a food production giant in the region.
“We can leap from a traditional primary commodity producer to a modern food producer and exporter, reaching way beyond the CARICOM regional market,” he said.
At present, 80 per cent of the food consumed in the Caribbean region is imported to the tune of US$5 billion annually. UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) coordinator for the Caribbean region, Dr. Fletcher-Paul, says a crisis is underway. “We, in fact, have a crisis on our hands, where we have been blessed with rich agricultural soil and land space, and a tropical climate conducive to the development of exotic produce, but we choose to import so much food. We need to expand the agricultural sector,” he said at the 2016 Caribbean Week of Agriculture observances held in the Cayman Islands.
Persaud is adamant that revenue from oil production as well as the use of natural gas can be used to transform Guyana’s agriculture sector to a modern powerhouse serving the Caribbean and further afield.
“There can be a supply of natural gas, as part of Liza phase 2 development, to create alternative energy sources in addition to hydroelectric, solar and wind which if harnessed can be the turning point for a food production sector,” he pointed out.
Read the details in this week’s Are we Ready for Prime Time? here: http://oilnow.gy/opinions/og-food-production-synergy/