Guyana imports about 40% of its food; President Ali targets self-sufficiency

- South American nation eyes large share of CARICOM market

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Agriculture is an important productive sector for Guyana, but with the country still importing about 40 percent of its food, President Dr. Irfaan Ali says that the government hopes Guyana can be self- sufficient.

While addressing a Harvard Business School forum on Monday, President Ali highlighted that agriculture is one of the main sectors that will help to diversify Guyana’s economy. Beyond its economic benefit, however, he believes the sector can do much more.

The goal, he said, is to first become self-sufficient. That means producing enough food locally to satisfy the demands of people living in Guyana.

Currently, the country still imports about 40 percent of the food consumed. That means, however, that 60 percent of the food demands are satisfied with local production. Guyana is already self-sufficient in poultry, for example.

And so President Ali believes that the country has the potential to feed itself. Even so, he said that the country also has the ability to satisfy the food demands of the wider Caribbean.

“CARICOM has an ambitious target- reducing its food import bill by 25 percent by 2025 through food substitution and increased production regionally and Guyana has an important role to play in that,” Dr. Ali emphasised.

CARICOM’s food import bill is more than US$4 billion annually, but if the region is able to cut down that bill by 25 percent, the region would save US$1 billion. Guyana’s food import bill itself is quite hefty.

Guyana is among the very few Caribbean countries that have the available land to engage in large-scale agricultural production.

Importantly, though, lands in Guyana are being made available for large-scale agricultural investments from stakeholders across CARICOM, as part of the country’s efforts to guarantee that the Caribbean region has enough food for its people.

In order for Guyana to increase its production and subsequently, its agricultural exports, President Ali says that the necessary investments must be made.

These would include improving drainage and irrigation, building better farm-to-market roads, reducing the costs of transporting raw materials, guaranteeing adequate and stable electricity and ensuring that there are quality standards in place.

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