On the good fortune of food security

For sheer evidence of agricultural bounty and food security in Guyana nothing beats the sight of our municipal markets on busy days with our housewives trading stories on street corners about how “good” the market is and when, to our considerable discredit, what cannot be traded or consumed is dumped on parapets or in canals close to the markets.

It is not only our local housewives who have a sense of how food-secure we are. Earlier this week when Stabroek Business visited Bourda Market to ascertain whether you could still buy tomatoes at fifty dollars a pound we detected other Caribbean accents amidst the customary market chatter and very quickly found out that the noise was coming from half a dozen or so females from elsewhere in the region. As best as we could tell they had apparently done some swift mathematical calculations arising out of which they had determined that tomatoes were virtually being ‘given away’ in local markets.

It was clear that the women – holidayers or otherwise – had decided to cash in on a bargain that would almost certainly never surface in their home country in a million years. They were talking about the wisdom of buying “green ones”; a dead giveaway. That was an indication that they wanted tomatoes that would travel well. There was evidence too that the substantive purpose of their presence in the market was not to buy tomatoes. One of them raised what she thought might be a problem of acquiring bags in which to place their purchases.

All of this, of course, is a tribute to the fertility of our soils and the industry of our farmers, though the latter consideration is taken account of all too infrequently. It struck us too that while this group of women from another Caricom territory generally deemed to be ‘better off’ than Guyana was driving themselves close to coronaries over the price of our tomatoes, our own shoppers, having long become ‘spoilt’ by such bargains, were looking at them with what-is-all-the-fuss-about expressions.

At that moment it could not fail to strike you that whilst quality of life does not turn only on the price of tomatoes, the differing levels of appreciation of what has come to be known as food security was being manifested in the diametrically opposed responses of our regional visitors and their home-grown counterparts.

What also occurs to you is our failure so far—the endless official dithering notwithstanding—to create the enabling environment in which we can take fuller advantage of the opportunities provided by our superior agriculture. Not only have we failed to grab the notion of a single market by the scruff of its neck by exporting larger volumes of our fresh fruit and vegetables to our less fortunate neighbours, but we have also failed, up until now, to create what one might call a value-added environment, that is to say, opportunities that allow for the processing of our farming bounty into products that could compete with some of the host of extra-regional imports that have pushed our regional food import bill to an amount in the neighbourhood of US$5 billion.

There are other paradoxes too: like the sustained complaints from local manufacturers about the assorted non-tariff barriers that place constricting limits on food imports from Guyana. It should be noted that Trinidad and Tobago continues to impose such barriers, even as the Guyana government ties up a deal for Trinidadian investors to secure land here to farm their own fruit and vegetables for export to their home country without—perhaps during the course of the land-for-farming discourses—raising the issue of Port of Spain’s protectionist disposition.



Product promotion and the agro- processing sector

The Stabroek Business has, on quite a few occasions, raised the issue of the constraints affecting the growth of the agro processing sector, not least the inability of cottage industry operators to secure financing for expansion, the scarcity of modern processing infrastructure, which limits agro processing largely to domestic kitchen operations and of course the underdevelopment of the packaging and labelling industry and the impact of these on the competitiveness of local agro produce.

The GMSA/GOG Round Table initiative

More than any of the various sectors comprising the Guyana economy, the manufacturing sector had been ‘marking time’ for several years.

Cuba beckons

If President Donald Trump’s move to slow the pace of the thaw in relations between Washing-ton and Havana initiated by his predecessor was intended in any to dim the enthusiasm of Caricom countries keen to strengthen their own ties with Cuba in what these days is a discernably liberalized economic environment, that ploy has simply not worked.

An oil industry… going forward

As a nation, we are approaching the point of possibly becoming a major producer of oil and gas producer, though just how big a player we will be can only be determined with the passage of time in circumstances where our understanding of the industry, its dynamics and its complexities is worryingly limited.

Foreign investment: The Brazil and T&T initiatives

The visit to Brazil in May by a delegation of heads of various state agencies including the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest), the Guyana National Bureau of Standards and the Lands and Surveys Department and the more recent visit here by a delegation of Trinidad and Tobago business leaders under the auspices of that country’s Chamber of Commerce were both focused, in large measure, on exploring trade and investment opportunities, which is among the issues that have featured in national discourses on the performance of the country’s economy and the prognosis for the future.

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