Agriculture already expanding across country, focus on sugar remains – Mustapha
… as Opposition calls for more production in hinterland regions
Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha on Wednesday said the government is already investing in the expansion of agricultural production all across the country and revitalising the sugar sector.
His statements were made during the third day of the 2024 budget debates, in response to an earlier presentation by Opposition Parliamentarian with shadow responsibility for the agriculture sector, Vinceroy Jordan.
Both Parliamentarians clashed over hefty investments for the agriculture sector. The sector got a $97.6 billion allocation in Guyana’s first trillion- dollar budget presented last week by Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh.
According to Jordan, the government was investing in programmes that do not necessarily benefit a majority of farmers across the country. He also contended that agricultural production continues to be focused on the coast and not expanded into more rural and hinterland regions.
Mustapha, however, disagreed.
Aside from expanded production along the coast, Mustapha said the government has already invested in expanded agriculture production in other regions.
“In Region One, we turned that region into the spice region,” he said.
In that region, he said hundreds of acres of turmeric and ginger are currently being produced there.
Then in Region Seven, Mustapha said there is a new agro-processing facility while in Region Eight, expanded food production is supporting the hot meals’ initiative where meals are provided to schoolchildren.
In Region Nine – a “success story” according to Mustapha- about nine villages are now producing their own rice while agro-processing is also being supported there.
And in Region 10, he said a water conservancy is being constructed for the first time ever. Part of the youth hydroponics project is also to be implemented there.
As is usually the case, investments in the sugar sector were also the subject of debate.
Jordan said under the APNU+AFC administration from 2015 to 2020, the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) received approximately $4 billion in support to return that industry to profitability.
He lamented that in three years, the PPP/C has invested more than $30 billion in the industry but significant gains have not been seen.
Mustapha, with the full support of government parliamentarians, rejected the comments. He reminded those gathered in the National Assembly that the former APNU+AFC administration closed estates and left thousands of people unemployed.
So the PPP/C, when it returned to office in 2020, was forced to spend large sums getting estates ready for reopening and going back into production.
“Factories were damaged, fields were abandoned, so we had to make resources available to make sure we get these factories in order,” he said.
This year, $6 billion has been allocated to GuySuCo to help the corporation to bolster its production and operational efficiency.
In the 2022 and the 2023 Budget, GuySuCo received $6 billion and $4 billion in the national budgets, respectively. This was supported by supplementary funding in both years. Altogether, GuySuCo had also been supported similarly in 2020 and 2021.