(Photo: Guyana Sugar Company)

Guyana seeking US investors for the agricultural sector

(Photo: Guyana Sugar Company)

President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana Dr Irfaan Ali on Monday urged United States companies to invest in his country’s agricultural sector.

According to a statement from the Office of the President, Dr Ali highlighted Guyana’s agricultural potential — during a webinar held under the theme: ‘Agriculture Opportunities in Guyana’ and organised by the United States Department of Commerce — to over 150 US companies interested in conducting business here.

President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana Dr Irfaan Ali
(Photo: DPI Guyana)

“I welcome you to a country that is open to doing business, that is ready to facilitate growth and development, and that is ready to help private investment to ensure that you have a decent return — a country and a market that believe inherently in the participation of the private sector,” he noted

President Ali outlined several facets of the sector, including Guyana’s potential to produce a large portion of the food requirement for the Caribbean Community (Caricom); its proximity to one of the most dynamic and robust agricultural sectors by diversification in the world — Brazil; and the underinvestment of the sector in realising its full potential.

The CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana. (File photo)

Underinvestment vs underdevelopment

He was quick to distinguish the difference between underinvestment and underdevelopment.

“Why I would not say underdevelopment is because you have a government that is ready to put in the necessary infrastructure investment to facilitate the private investment in the sector, to realise the potential we’ll talk about.”

Ali explained that agriculture contributes 21.7 per cent of Guyana’s non-oil gross domestic product (GDP); in terms of agriculture trade, the country’s export earnings are about US$370 million, which primarily comes from rice, fish, sugar, and some amount of non-traditional produce; while the sector contributes to about 12.1 per cent of employment.

A Guyanese rice field. (Photo: Guyana Rice Development Board)

Ali noted that although the employment in the sector is highest in the rural areas, a lot of investments have been made in research, technology development and skills development, which have produced “a very competent skill base” in terms of human assets available.

He told the investors that about five per cent of the country’s national budget is allocated to agriculture.

Growing with agriculture

With regards to the growth of the sector, President Ali outlined several key features including an ideal tropical climate, large expanse of freshwater and, importantly, vast tracts of productive land.

“So those who have experience in agriculture would know when you hear vast tracts of productive land and freshwater coming together, you get excited because the natural environment with the tropical climate allows for the development of the sector.”

“What we need, as I said, are the investors who are ready to make the investments into large-scale mega facilities that will support the growth and development of these different subsectors

President of Guyana Dr Irfaan Ali

He also disclosed to the potential investors that the country produces 59 per cent of its internal demand.

“This is some of what Guyana offers; 215,000 square kilometres of coastline, an ideal location to access global markets, attractive fiscal incentives for investment, a private sector-friendly Government and, of course, a country with diverse people.”

President Ali outlined some investment opportunities in the sector which include, rice, sugar, corn, soyabean, coconut, spices, fruits and vegetables, agro-processing, agrochemical, the livestock sector — poultry, beef, dairy, sheep, and goat — and fisheries-agriculture and shrimp.

Relationship with Caricom

In pointing to Guyana’s productive capacity within Caricom, the head of State said that the potential is about US$25 million in poultry alone, 90 per cent of which is imported.

“Guyana has the potential of satisfying all of Caricom’s food requirements for poultry products, eggs, beef, aquaculture; we have the land, we have the freshwater but what we don’t have is the investment. What we don’t have are the large-scale mega-farms that would allow us to produce, that would allow us to facilitate the type of growth that will help us to enter this natural market in Caricom.”

He reiterated the need for mega investments in the agriculture sector which will bolster Guyana’s already existing ability to satisfy the regional market.

“What we need, as I said, are the investors who are ready to make the investments into large-scale mega facilities that will support the growth and development of these different subsectors. In terms of land availability, in every one of these areas, we have lands that are available. We have freshwater…and we have the critical infrastructure link that will allow you to move your produce from the field to the market or to the export facility as it is now.”

Government, he added, will be heavily focused on developing the aquaculture sector in the short term to service potential markets including Caricom, the USA, Mexico, and the EU.

“The USA, for example, imported over 550,000 metric tons of frozen shrimp and prawns valued at US$4.8 billion. So here is an opportunity for us to work together with the local private sector and the US investors to meet the demand in the United States. And what do we have for the aquaculture industry? We have the brackish water, we have freshwater and salted water, all of which are distinct and comparative advantages in the aquaculture industry.”

Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud and several government representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture joined President Ali for the virtual meeting, while Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha and American Ambassador to Guyana Sarah Ann Lynch joined the proceedings virtually.

US Ambassador to Guyana Sarah-Ann Lynch and chief executive officer at the Guyana Office for Investment Dr Peter Ramsaroop during a courtesy call on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. (Photo: DPI Guyana)

In addressing the participants, Ambassador Lynch acknowledged that “this is a time of unprecedented opportunities” in Guyana.