Lack of diversification has left the economy of Region Six grappling with the ramifications of mainly relying on rice and sugar for its survival. Over the past few months, the region’s two major crops have experienced a gradual decline in production as well as market price, adversely affecting its economy.
So much so that Regional Chairman David Armogan is concerned about its sustainability. “We are experiencing somewhat of an economic slowdown,” he said, making a fervent plea to President David Granger to assist the region in keeping its crops alive, since “our salvation lies in agriculture.”
He was at the time giving brief remarks at the opening ceremony of the 12th annual Berbice Exposition and Trade Fair, on Friday.
The region’s economy has traditionally relied heavily on the two crops, as they have been the “hub around which most other businesses rotate” and are responsible for “a significant number of people being employed in our region,” Armogan stated. Against this backdrop, the chairman implored President Granger “to see whatever help he can continue to give to these industries to keep them going until our economy can have alternative ways of dealing with employment and other contributions that these two sectors make.”
While acknowledging the need to promote entrepreneurship as well as diversification, Armogan said we must not lose focus of the contributions made by rice and sugar to the country’s GDP, foreign exchange and employment.
He went on to say that new ways of keeping these two industries alive must be explored. “We need to realize our potential; there are many business opportunities in the areas of fishing, forestry and tourism but perhaps our greatest strength and comparative advantage lies in agriculture, food production,” he opined.
Identifying Guyana’s fertile lands and fresh waters as two of the main components for successful agriculture, Armogan said we have been careless as a nation given the fact that “our Caricom sister state’s import bill is approximately US$3 billion per year, and our take, Guyana’s take in this, is very negligible.”
However, he stressed that in order for Guyana, and in particular Region 6, to unleash its potential to supply fruits, vegetables and ground provisions to Caricom countries and beyond, “our agriculture has to be planned, cost efficient and quality oriented.” It was further noted that planned agriculture plus agro-processing are areas where greater efforts and more resources must be outlaid in the period ahead.