The Pomeroon was once a food basket; today it is neglected, and farmers have moved away from their lands in search of a better living seeking gold. Almost all the farm lands are left abandoned; many acres of coconut farms were over-run by bush because of no proper drainage and the deadly red mite coconut disease. The Pomeroon has the most fertile lands in Guyana; I can attest to this because I worked on several projects in the area. Anything can grow on it, but drainage is the biggest problem. In the past farmers had a regular market in Trinidad to supply water coconuts and dry nuts.
Realistically, the coconut acreage should be 10,000, according to the latest figures, with another 10,000 under-cultivated. There is a great scope for joint ventures but no attention is being paid to these fertile lands and we are losing our farmers daily. This is a good area for the government to invest some of the oil money and make Pomeroon once again the food basket, notwithstanding the extensive news coverage given every day about the oil find in our waters. The most important crisis facing the world today is the adequacy of food supplies.
Lots of plantain, citrus and coffee were exported out of Pomeroon in the ʼ60s and early ʼ70s according to Mr Deleep Singh, the President of the Essequibo Chamber of Commerce and a big farmer from the Pomeroon. He had exported a lot of copra to Trinidad while other farmers like former PNC minister, Mr Kassim, were doing the same. Right now this place has great potential, and is the largest coconut producing area in the Caribbean. Mr Singh told me that he has a plan for the development of Pomeroon.
Government and the Ministry of Agriculture need to pay more attention to the Pomeroon and listen to him, so farmers big and small can go back to the land and produce. I have noticed that NAREI has its agriculture extension officers in the affected fields working to eradicate the red mite disease. This is a good sign; it will encourage the farmers back, but at the same time new plants will be needed from the nursery at Charity. A coconut festival was held last year at Charity but it did not get the support of the big Pomeroon farmers.
Our policy must be to expand food production in Pomeroon for export. In the years ahead food prices will rise more sharply than oil prices, and we have to give serious consideration to the question of regional food security. We therefore have a duty as a nation to use our agricultural lands which have been left idle by promoting Pomeroon as a food basket.