Food Safety Authority, Trade Policy to increase agri. exports
Guyana is hoping to increase the export of agriculture produce with the establishment of a National Food Safety Authority next year and a Trade Policy.
Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud made this comment during a forum held by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) on how to improve regional trade for Guyana.
Persaud who previously served as an Agriculture Minster explained that with the trade policy and the establishment of the National Food Safety Authority and better knowledge of supply and demand in the Region, Guyana is poised to become one of leading agriculture and food export countries in the Caribbean.
The National Food Safety Authority is provided for in the Food Safety Bill which was passed last year; it will come on-stream in February 2021. The Authority will be responsible for ensuring that all agricultural produce meet international standards.
“We do believe if we have the right local environment, the current focus that we see on the agricultural sector, the re-engineering and investment being made, we can certainly realize that potential,” Persaud said.
Other key policy mechanisms include fiscal incentives for export oriented industries, addressing the high production cost and improving the Association of Caribbean States transportation programme.
“We have heard the government already talking about work taking place in the development of gas and power and even restarting the Amaila Hydro energy facility; that will certainly allow the food processing and agricultural sector to benefit.”
Despite challenges with unfair trading practices through dumping and high subsidies internationally, the government has made a commitment to transform, reorganize and modernize sector.
Agriculture supports 25% of the country’s GDP with an employment of 17%. Persaud said 30% of export earnings are also associated with food and agriculture products such as rice, sugar, fish and fisheries products, beverages, spirits, fruits and vegetables.
Guyana will now be taking full advantage of the approximately 20 multilateral, regional and bilateral trade agreements. These agreements Persaud explained can benefit and sustain agriculture.
“Of course more needs to be done to ensure that policy are responsive to the challenges on the ground,” Persaud said.
The country also has comparative advantage such large tracts of arable lands and expansive network of rivers and streams that provide fresh water resources, a diverse ecosystem and stable climate.
Meanwhile, President of the Caribbean Agri-Business Association (CABA) Vassel Stuart said Guyana can build a massive export market with honey sweetened beverages and bakery products as consumers globally are seeking to replace sugar with natural sweeteners. Stuart mentioned other potential export products such as fruit juice and vegetable juice, coconut water, herbs and spices especially for medicinal purposes.
This he explained can be achieved by establishing private-public partnership, investment and export plan with specific objectives, providing resources for implementation and accountability not just for the government but also the farmers.