In January 2010, at the launch of the Agriculture Export Diversification Programme at the Guyana School of Agriculture, the then Agriculture Minister, Mr Robert Persaud said, “The ship for transforming the livestock sector is leaving the port.” In his wisdom, Mr Persaud said in three years we shall “acquire land in the intermediate savannahs, the left bank of the Abary River, 7,000 acres on the Corentyne and vast areas in Region Nine” to become a “a lead exporter in beef and dairy products in the Caribbean.”
In the same month of January 2010, Minister Irfaan Ali in defence of his colleague in Parliament for the passage of the Guyana Livestock Development Authority Bill boasted that “this is a promise of his party to the people” and his party will “capitalize on the Caricom food market.” Very good plans, but they were only broken promises by the PPP regime.
Well these three years have come and gone and the amount of beef and dairy cattle produced in Guyana today is actually less than it was three years ago. The export of beef and dairy products to the Caribbean as promised by the government never took off; no land was acquired and the ship that Minister Robert Persaud said was leaving the port had such a big hole that it sank before even leaving port.
Since then, not one word has been mentioned in the budget by the Minister of Finance or Minister Irfaan Ali about the beef and dairy cattle industry. Dairy cattle, sheep and goat farmers all over Guyana are struggling to get lands for pasture to grow more food for their animals, as they continue to be neglected by this government.
Rustling is now rampant resulting in a depletion of the stock of animals and the technology in the industry remains primitive from the last century. The quality of the breeding programme is poor compared to what Minister Persaud and the PPP regime promised the farmers in 2010. They promised a $206 million state of the art international abattoir three years ago and what did the farmers get – zero!
All of it fell on deaf ears since not one word was mentioned on the dairy industry, the swine industry, beef cattle, chicken or the small ruminant industries in this 2013 Budget or in previous budgets. If these industries can be approached correctly, they can create thousands of new jobs for our young people and even retired rural folks, and provide them with a stable income for the rest of their lives. This should be the goal of the PPP regime if they are to regain the trust and confidence of the farmers.
An AFC government would not make promises it cannot fulfil. It would make the east and west Berbice River region, portions of the Intermediate Savannahs, the Linden Highway and the Rupununi the focus areas for livestock production. The AFC plans to engage multi-disciplinary teams of research scientists imported mainly from Brazil to develop production systems in close alliance with the private sector. As one of its cornerstone plans, the AFC will make sure that the University of Guyana and the National Agricultural Research Institute partner with the livestock authorities to improve the livestock industry and make sure that the dairy farmers earn a decent living.
Additionally, the AFC will do the following to help the farmers in the livestock sector:
1. Provide scholarships to Guyanese students who are engaged in this project at UG and in Brazil at a higher level (livestock production engineers, all ﬁelds of livestock science, quality control skills, trained butchers in the art of meat cuts, etc).
2. Distribute land on a large scale to put the identified targeted areas into accelerated production with clear deliverables so that the investor must invest or leave.
3. Set up a team of technical experts, including Brazilian technicians who will work with all Caricom governments to penetrate those markets.
4. Build a world class abattoir at Lethem.
5. Grant a 3 year tax holiday to investors who will either process the meat, hides or other waste in Guyana for export.
Today, the regime has abandoned the farmers of Guyana in favour of its wealthy business buddies. All that matters to this government is the Chinese contractors, the Kingston Hotel, the Specialty Hospital, the airport expansion, etc.
Harish S Singh