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Post Thu Feb 14, 2019 2:15 pm
By Nadia Guyadeen Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud has said that the fact that a few commodities (rice, sugar, bauxite,Wholesale Nike NFL Jerseys, seafood, gold, diamonds and wood products) account for the bulk of Guyana’s export earnings, and the sales of these commodities are concentrated on a few markets in Europe and North America, is not an ideal situation.“We would need to look at more resilient markets and to diversify these markets. This we have started, as we are in the process of diversifying our agriculture to widen our export base.”The minister was responding to comments made by Dr. Maurice Odle, of Caricom, who at a recent forum said that this situation could prove to be bad for Guyana in light of the global financial crisis.Dr. Odle contended that the Guyana goods sector is likely to be adversely impacted by the external shock occasioned by the current financial crisis, especially if it leads to a full blown recession.Minister Persaud pointed out that the world economy is more interdependent and interlinked than ever before. Thus it is very obvious that, as a small vulnerable economy, any global shock will impact greatly on Guyana.Minister Robert PersaudHowever, he added, it depends on the structure of the local economy to absorb these shocks, since it could impact positively or negatively.He noted that with the recent high prices for rice, due to increased demand, rice farmers were able to receive higher prices for their paddy. As such, this can be deemed as a positive impact due to an external shock that may not necessarily be positive for non rice producing countries.“In the agricultural sector, we are conducting an impact analysis of the global financial meltdown, so that adequate planning and early attendance can be given. We cannot afford to be complacent.”In addressing the issues of Guyana’s major agricultural export commodities, Minister Persaud said that, historically, rice and sugar were granted access to the European markets with quotas and preferential prices quite higher than the world market price, even though in the beginning this was the opposite.“The recent unilateral dismantling of this regime, together with steep price cuts, has indeed reduced our revenue earnings, but we still maintain our access to these markets with a favourable price.”He added that market access for rice to the European Commission (EC) will be on a duty-free quota-free (DFQF) basis from January 1, 2010. For the transition period, during 2008 and 2009, duty free rice quotas to Customs and Freighted (CF) rice exporters (Guyana and Suriname) will be increased to 187,000 metric tonnes in 2008, and 250,000 metric tonnes from January 1, 2009. In 2010 it will be on a full duty-free quota-free basis.The EC had previously offered additional access only to the Dominican Republic (which had no quota under the Sugar Protocol).According to Minister Persaud, any shortfall within the region will be shared among the region, as against the entire African Caribbean Pacific countries.He also noted that rice is a very essential commodity for the world population, and as income declines, people tend to shed all the unnecessary expenses before they start cutting down on necessities.“So we can safely say that rice will always be in demand, as climate changes have reduced the production in some major rice producing countries, and the ever increasing population will demand more.”“So far, we have to see how far the crisis goes before we can really determine the extent of the impact. We, however, are not sitting idly, we are involved in diversifying our economy and preparing our adaptation strategies for climate change and the global challenges that are facing us.”At the cabinet level, he added, discussions on these new challenges are taking place, and President Bharrat Jagdeo has called for a CARICOM Summit to discuss the global financial situation.Addressing the vulnerability of Guyana’s goods sector, Minister Persaud said that if ‘vulnerable’ is defined in terms of the narrowness of the economic base, then for small developing countries such as Guyana, diversification would be a way to reduce the total exposure to risk.Another variation of the vulnerability argument, he added, emphasizes that many small states do not have large natural resources, and are therefore at a disadvantage.“What I can say is that we are in the process of diversifying our economic base and we have lots of natural resources, so this would suggest that, while we are vulnerable, we are in the process of taking measures so as to reduce our vulnerability in both the short to medium terms.”Minister Persaud assured that Guyana is always looking for new markets for all products, regionally and internationally. In collaboration with the New Guyana Marketing Corporation and agencies such as Guyana Trade and Investment Support project (GTIS), Guyana is actively engaged in a number of trade and investment fairs and actively pursuing links with importers, especially those from the Diaspora and other countries. “And we are making incremental success. As pointed out, we are not only diversifying production, but also our markets.”According to Minister Persaud, his ministry has recently begun the implementation of the US$20M Agriculture Export Diversification Programme, which is a multi-faceted strategy that seeks to reposition the sector with focus on establishment of the necessary framework that targets the expansion of potential growth areas, such as the non-traditional crop sector, livestock industry and aquaculture.Another important programme in this regard, he added, is the US$ 7M Rural Enterprise Development Programme, which aims to strengthen intermediary service providers and institutions whose services add value to production and marketing systems, as well as increase rural welfare. The hinterland region’s main focus will be to ensure food security and nutritional value, and increase production of organically grown foods, and will target some 5,200 rural households countrywide.“These are two major programmes that will enhance our diversification efforts. For the first time, we have dedicated projects with international support for agriculture diversification, and we must see this as part of our efforts to develop a robust economy.” The minister also pointed out that even though the programmes are in their initial stages, it must be noted that Guyana is experiencing the “highest level of export in recent time”, adding that export of agricultural produce has risen by 34 percent in comparison to other years.“With respect to non-traditionals, the value of exports in 2003 was US$3,754; in 2007 this figure was US$9,293,696. I must point out that we have not drawn down resources as we are still fulfilling prior conditions to launch the projects.”He stated that the benefits of the agriculture diversification project will result in reduced vulnerability, increased income through job creation, and development of rural areas as well as the reduction of hunger and poverty.“The broad objective is to make the agriculture sector more competitive and the national economy much stronger, especially in the context of an unpredictable global financial situation,” the minister posited.

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