‘Feed Suriname first, then the region’

(de Ware Tijd) PARAMARIBO – “Suriname wants to become the food basket of the region, but we must feed ourselves first. If you look at all the food we import, we could work to replace those products. Take chicken for example, with imports covering sixty to seventy percent of the market, while local producers can only meet thirty to forty percent of the demand. We have room ot produce,” Edmund Rozenblad, deputy Permanent Secretary Animal Husbandry at the Agriculture (LVV) Ministry, tells de Ware Tijd in an interview.

Yesterday, he represented LVV Minister Hendrik Setrowidjojo at the cluster meeting of private and public sector stakeholders which was intended to help improve the productivity and competitiveness of the agrarian sector. “In the past, the agrarian sector was much stronger and capable of much more than it is now,” Rozenblad told the meeting. He explains this statement by saying that heavy competition locally and abroad in particular has caused the agrarian sector to decline. “Some products, including rice, bananas and fish were clearly better, and we had more export markets. But we are not to blame for everything, as markets used to be protected. Now we have open markets due to the efforts of the World Trade Organization (WTO). We must learn to compete in those open markets with all other producers from all over the world,” Rozenblad says, referring to the improvement of the competitiveness of Suriname’s agrarian sector.

He expects the cluster meetings to make an importnt contribution to charting teh way forward. The Ministry of Trade and Industry (HI) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) are behind the cluster initiative, which is divided into two pilots, one for tourism and the other for agriculture. If the pilots are successful, plans are to include all other economic sectors in the project. Kenneth Foe A Man, acting head of the Suriname Business Forum, remains realistic, pointing out that some earlier clustering initiatives have stranded particularly because the results were not worked out in detail. Lack of financing and enthusiasm have often killed such projects during the follow-up phase.

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