Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy has been sounding off on what he says is the desirability of Guyanese assuming a more assertive buy local posture, while warning local agro-processors to ensure their products secure official certification from the Food and Drugs Department or they will effectively be barred from local supermarket shelves.
“There is no reason for us to import plantain chips from Trinidad and Tobago,” Ramsammy said. “It’s not their fault; it is our fault; we are foreign-minded,” he told a gathering of farmers and agro-processors in the Ministry of Agriculture’s Board Room on Friday last. “One of our local companies, Banks DIH Ltd can’t sell their ice cream in Barbados but we are importing that product from the region. Then there is this issue of the importation of tamarind balls from Thailand.”
Ramsammy told the gathering that while he was not advocating a ban on imported products from the region or elsewhere he was recommending that Guyanese show more support for locally produced foods. “It would be good for us to begin to look inwards. I would advocate that you visit the Guyana Marketing Corporation’s Guyana Shop and check to see whether there are local equivalents of the imported food products that we consume,” Ramsammy said.
The Agriculture Minister also told the gathering that calls on Guyanese consumers to make locally produced agro-products their preferred purchases had to be accompanied by moves to enhance the quality of those goods. Alluding to the importance of “safe and sanitary manufacturing conditions and improv-ed standards of packaging and labelling,” the Agricul-ture Minister told agro-processors, “unless you are able to meet certain basic minimum conditions you will not be certified and what that would mean is that you can’t put your products on the shelves of supermarkets.”
Meanwhile, Ramsammy told the gathering that government was focused on allocating more resources and opportunities to ensure the empowerment of small farmers. “The President and the government are impatient that the empowerment of small farmers is not happening fast enough,” he said.
The Ramotar administration, according to Ramsammy, refuses to advance institutions that embrace subsistence livelihoods as a permanent feature. “Our goal as a government is not to keep people in a condition of subsistence,” Ramsammy said. He said the loans and grants allocated to farming and agro-processing groups under the READ project – a six-year initiative to support the growth of agriculture and agro-processing utilising a loan/grant facility from the Inter-national Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) – were intended to be used as “seed money” to supplement the recipients own investments in their respective farming projects.