Greater mutton production in Caribbean could see $8.9B earned yearly- Pres. Ali

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Countries in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have been spending billions to import mutton every year, but a new partnership between Guyana and Barbados could see the countries producing more meat and earning about GY$8.9 billion yearly.

President Dr. Irfaan Ali, during a press conference on Sunday, stated that CARICOM spent about US$48 million (or GY$10 billion) importing about 7,900 tonnes of mutton or lamb in 2019.

During the years before that, the News Room understands that US$43.6 million was spent in 2018, US$47.3 million in 2017 and US$36 million in 2016.

Now, President Ali says that Guyana and Barbados are involved in “major discussions” to expand the production of mutton from the black belly sheep.

“We are targeting to increase the local production above 7,000 tonnes by the end of five years,” President Ali said.

And the President said that increasing production to this level would require a capital investment of about US$175 million (or GY$36.5 billion) and 25,000 hectares of land.

President Dr. Irfaan Ali (third from right) responding to questions from a local journalist during his press conference on Sunday (Photo: Latchman Singh/ Office of the President/ March 6, 2022)

Importantly, however, President Ali said that this expansion could earn the two countries US $43 million (or GY$8.9 billion) annually; it is also expected to generate about 4,500 direct and indirect jobs.

The News Room also understands that Suriname is also targeted for this initiative. Since 2019, there have been reports that Barbados is interested in rearing more black belly sheep in Guyana and Suriname.

The effort to increase regional mutton production is part of President Ali’s lauded proposals presented to a recent CARICOM Heads of Government Summit to boost regional food security and cut the massive food import bill.

With President Ali outlining how countries can significantly expand their food production, thereby adding to the volume of food produced in the region, Prime Minister Mia Mottley had reasoned that private sector-led investments will be crucial.

As such, she highlighted that a regional investment conference will be held in Georgetown, Guyana from May 19 to 21, this year.

President Ali confirmed that this conference is indeed billed for Guyana but importantly, he disclosed that it is expected that individual countries would outline what incentives can be provided to private investors.

Altogether, CARICOM is seeking to cut its more than US$4 billion food import by 25 per cent by 2025. Guyana has the lead responsibility for agriculture in CARICOM.

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