Friday, May 20, 2022

Oil money to back youth-led agri programme in South America’s newest hot spot

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Even though Guyana’s hydrocarbon sector has dominated the spotlight since its emergence in 2015, the Irfaan Ali-led government is determined to demonstrate that the South American country will not be solely dependent on oil.

Just last week, President Irfaan Ali launched the Agriculture and Innovation Entrepreneurship Programme (AIEP) at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre (ACCC) on the outskirts of Georgetown. This is an initiative that will see Guyanese youths becoming shareholders of a company that will manage 25 shade houses for the production of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. The programme is seen as timely since Guyana is a heavy importer of these vegetables. In fact, the nation’s import bill for these three vegetables was $2.6B in 2021 alone.

According to Ali, the project is not only in keeping with his pledge to create opportunities for a diversified economy, but it is also hinged on the government’s promise to grow local content initiatives that are sustainable and high in value.

The Head of State said, “…oil and gas gives us the resources to create opportunities such as these. And this is where the real benefit will be. Creating it and giving you, the youths the ownership of it and that is the future we are creating. And this is an important part of achieving the local content that we speak of.”

Mr. Ali said this type of initiative rebuts the narrow minded view some persons may have that local content should only be centred on creating fabrication services.

 “And that is why it is critical for us to invest the money in these sustainable projects. You can’t save for the future if the present is dead. You can’t say I am going to put up this money whilst my house is leaking; you have to fix the leak otherwise you might die and the savings might be left there,” he stated.

He added, “You cannot allow the economy to die. The economy has to grow and create opportunities and when you invest in the economy, the opportunities that will be created will bring far more revenue than what we are saving and what we are investing.”

OilNOW understands that the Agriculture project would be done through interagency and inter-ministry support systems that will see collaboration from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce and the Joint Services, among other groups.

Mr. Ali said that according to data, the business to be led by past and current agriculture graduates can generate in a net sense, close to $60 to $70 million annually.

He emphasised that the programme will be expanded in the future to have about 300 shade houses across the country.

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