Food for over 2,000 persons offshore part of big agri demand Guyana can meet using oil riches

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Hydrocarbon resources diminish over time but the need for food remains central in the human existence. Guyana now has an unprecedented opportunity to modernize and mechanise its agriculture sector so that long after the oil is gone, the South American country will remain a regional agriculture powerhouse.

Writing in a column published on Sunday, Dr. H. Arlington Chesney, a leading Caribbean Agricultural professional, said it is imperative that the advent of Guyana’s national oil and gas sector (NOGS) and the concomitant riches should not, as could easily happen, be associated with a decline in the country’s agriculture and food sectors.

“Rather these assets must be used to modernise, restructure and reinvigorate the agriculture and food sectors: especially those components that could readily “piggyback” on the NOGS,” Dr. Chesney said.

He pointed out that doing so can form an important and achievable element of Guyana’s efforts in local content.

“Unlike many highly sophisticated inputs demanded by the oil and gas industry, reliable and safe food service is something Guyanese can quickly enter and profit from,” he stated.

Dr. Chesney, who is a Professional Emeritus of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, said by the end of the decade there could be as many as 12 FPSOs accompanied by an estimated eight or nine drilling ships. The estimated personnel required per vessel ranges from 60-100. He said this means that food must be available for a current minimum of 240-360 to a maximum of 2,000 able bodied adults.

Big opportunities for farmers in Guyana’s oil and gas sector, supplies already going offshore

“To adequately provide for such a cadre of crew substantial quantities of food will be required. For example, 59,49,14 and 28 tonnes of chicken, beef, fish and tomatoes, respectively. These are commodities that can all be technically grown in Guyana,” Dr. Chesney said.

However, he stressed that in order to engender end user and investor confidence, there must be reliability of supply and nutrition and food safety adequacy. As such, he pointed out that a completely integrated approach involving key segments of the public and private sectors is needed.

Pointing to media reports about several four and five star franchise hotels which are set to be commissioned in the new oil producing South American country, he said these facilities will also increase the demand for safe and nutritious foods.

“The supply to these hotels will be subject to similar conditions required for the offshore vessels …Consequently, the relationship between the agriculture sector and the offshore elements of the NOGS will have a teaching and multiplier element,” Dr. Chesney stated.

He stressed that this opportunity to organise segments of Guyana’s agriculture and food sectors must allow for the availability of safe foods whilst maintaining the critical national and sectoral objective of sustainable development.

“Now is the time to grasp this waiting opportunity. The euphoria of the advent of oil and gas must be “milked” in a meaningful, tangible and sustained manner so as to reset, reinvent and reinnovate the agriculture and food sectors of Guyana,” Dr. Chesney added.

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