‘We’re creating a brand’ – Agri. Minister says as Guyana, Barbados pushing food agenda
By Vishani Ragobeer
Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha says concrete plans to import sheep from Barbados and construct a new food terminal on that island are part of efforts to create a new regional brand and boost food security efforts.
Mustapha spent the past few days in Barbados, assessing the linkages that can be created or deepened between the two countries to boost the Caribbean’s food security.
That engagement, Mustapha told the News Room on Monday, has “concretised” Guyana’s food security partnership with Barbados. And he highlighted that one of the immediate outcomes of this engagement would be the importation of black belly sheep from Barbados in a matter of weeks.
Expanding mutton production efforts, Mustapha explained, stemmed from prior engagements between Guyana’s President Dr. Irfaan Ali and Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley.
“They want to create a brand in the region rather than bring (the sheep) from New Zealand,” the Agriculture Minister told the News Room on Monday.
The number of sheep slated for importation has not yet been disclosed.
President Dr. Irfaan Ali, during a recent press conference, stated that the Caribbean Community (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.
The new partnership between Guyana and Barbados seeks to cut these import costs by producing more meat. The News Room understand that regional mutton market is about $8.9 billion; Mustapha noted that Guyana is seeking to cash in on this payday.
Beyond this initiative, Guyana is seeking to export more of its food to Barbados. And the creation of a food terminal on the island will support these efforts. Mustapha said that seven acres of land were allocated for the construction of this terminal.
According to Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) – the official communications arm of the Barbados Government – the site is located in Lears, St. Michael. The facility will comprise a purpose-built facility to accommodate about 40 containers at any time; a reservoir holding 20 million gallons of water, and land for crop production.
The food terminal is a direct result of the Guyana-Barbados St. Barnabas Accord, which was signed by President Ali and Prime Minister Mottley.
“Both Guyana and Barbados will be working towards the construction of that food terminal,” Mustapha told the News Room.
Meanwhile, the BGIS also reported Minister Mustapha floated the idea of direct shipping between Guyana, Suriname and Barbados and possibly, the Eastern Caribbean.
This, Mustapha reportedly said could help to control the cost of freighting- which is currently a factor in driving up food prices.
Guyana, reportedly, signalled its intention to support Barbados’ thrust for self-sufficiency as well. A BGIS press release stated that Mustapha committed Guyana’s aid in filling any gaps where food production in Barbados could not meet demand.