Scientist finds great organic agri prospects here By Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
February 16, 2002

`The constraints are not insurmountable. We have passed the stage of wobbling feet and are ready to walk' - Crops Minister Satyadeow Sawh

BRITISH soil scientist, Mr. John Myers says "opportunities are great" for organic agriculture in Guyana.

Myers yesterday said from his evaluation of proposals during visits to potential sites for extensive organic farming, he is convinced that Guyana can enter the organic market in the United Kingdom and Europe.

He told a news conference hosted by the Ministry of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock that while a variety of crops can be grown, there is a need to prioritise.

At the moment, cocoa and palm products head the list and the scientist said there is potential for fresh and processed fruits and vegetables and spices, in that order.

Myers, however, identified infrastructure and transportation as areas that have to be addressed.

He also advised that the process of conversion to organic farming need not wait until prospective buyers come forward and that preparations have to be made in advance to identify the best sites and implement the required measures.

Describing the document on Guyana's organic programme for the next five years as a "good one", Myers said that it lays the basis for national policy on organic agriculture.

He will present a report of his findings and recommendations to the Government upon completing his one-week visit which started Monday.

British High Commissioner to Guyana, Mr. Edward Glover, reiterating Myers' findings, declared, "the signposts are clear, there are excellent opportunities for organic farming and the key is the export market."

Glover emphasised that success of the venture lies in a reliable supply, quality and competitive prices. In this respect, Guyana faces competition from within the Caribbean region.

He said potential buyers will visit Guyana soon and "if they like what they see, the clock will start ticking." Guyana has 18 months in which to make an export commitment, therefore, the "hard work has to begin now," Glover stressed.

The diplomat further impressed upon the authorities the need to face up to several challenges that lay ahead in the process. These include putting measures in place for certification and addressing the transportation issue which is crucial to the success of the venture.

The products have 48 hours to reach from the farm to the supermarket, Glover pointed out.

He said the demand in the U.K. and Europe for organic products is growing, increasing at 40 per cent per annum.

This trend has been spurred because supermarkets in the U.K. have recognised that consumers, especially since the outbreak of the foot and mouth disease, have become inclined to buying expensive but safer food.

Minister of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock, Mr. Satyadeow Sawh said his ministry is aware of the existing constraints and was addressing these.

He declared, "the constraints are not insurmountable. We have passed the stage of wobbling feet and are ready to walk."

Director of the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), Dr. Oudho Homenauth said Regions One (Barima/Waini), Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam) and Three (West Demerara/Essequibo Islands) have been targeted as the principal organic farming areas.

He, however, said that the other regions may have some potential, but these would be targeted at a later stage of the programme.

Homenauth also said Myers was able to visit potential sites at Canal No 1 Polder and Uitvlugt in Region Three and Lake Mainstay and Pomeroon in Region Two, explaining that time constraints did not permit visits to other sites.