Guarding against a white elephant Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
February 21, 2002

MILK - that complete food so essential for good health, especially for children - was once in poor supply in Guyana because of a rapid decline in the agriculture sector.

In addition, powdered milk was one of the victims of a previous import substitution policy in the drive towards self-sufficiency. One minister of the then government even recommended coconut milk as a substitute!

The once thriving Milk Pasteurisation Plant in Kingston, Georgetown folded and another milk production project LIDCO was pursued, and unfortunately like so many other projects in that era, that also folded.

However, in more recent times farmers have been demonstrating a greater commitment to diversification and through initiatives of the National Dairy Development Programme (NDDP) and the Ministry of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock milk production has been increasing.

And fresh milk is now much more available than about a decade ago. This is indeed a healthy sign.

The recent commissioning of the Dantzig Mini-Milk Pasteurisation Plant, East Coast Demerara, is another step forward in the dairy sector and opens new opportunities for dairy farmers.

Apart from the production of pasteurised milk, the long-term objective is to get into commercial production of other value added dairy products, like cheese and yogurt.

The intention also is to establish similar plants in other regions, using Dantzig as a pilot project. The pioneers of this venture must be commended for their visionary initiative.

But the task ahead is for all stakeholders to work conscientiously and cooperatively to ensure the venture becomes a huge success.

As Fisheries, Crops and Livestock Minister, Mr. Satyadeow Sawh pertinently pointed out at the commissioning, it must not be allowed to become a "white elephant" because of petty squabbling and mismanagement.

The project holds out much hope as Guyana advances on the economic diversification programme, including building on the organic agriculture front which is also full of promise for local farmers.

The success of the Dantzig enterprise would have significant positive impact on the local economy, because it can become the springboard for similar ventures throughout the country.

This would lead to an increased production of milk which would have health benefits, as well as reducing dependence on imports of foreign milk.

Eventually, Guyana can become an exporter of milk and if this materialises the economic benefits will be obvious - increased foreign exchange earnings, creation of employment, etc. But of course this is a long way off and there are immediate objectives that must be achieved that would be the launching pad for the long-term goal.

Micro-enterprise has played a significant role in the developmental process of many Third World countries and Guyana should therefore use the experiences of these countries to foster the development of such a sector.

Dantzig could be a pacesetter.