Heartening results on a new front Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
April 18, 2002

Related Links: Articles on GPL
Letters Menu Archival Menu

WITH a growing demand for organic foods, especially in Europe, an opportunity has been created for Guyana to penetrate and capture a significant share of this market.

And much to its credit the Ministry of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock has moved briskly and astutely in equipping Guyana to meet the challenges of the organic market which so far does not have many players.

The strategic five-year plan for organic agriculture by the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) is a step in the right direction. Under this plan it is envisaged that several fruits and vegetables will be grown organically with the ultimate goal of exporting to niche markets.

In this regard NARI has been successfully experimenting with traditional and non-traditional crops at its farm. And quite sensibly and correctly it has been getting the farmers themselves involved in organic farming.

Already at Parika on the East Bank Essequibo, identified as one of the organic farming centres, farmers are growing several fruits and vegetables experimentally and the results have been heartening. This of course is in addition to the breakthrough already made with cocoa in Region One (Barima/Waini) and heart of palm, which is exported to North America and Europe, especially to France.

Minister of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock, Mr. Satyadeow Sawh foresees a bright future for organic agriculture in Guyana. He has noted a growing demand globally for organic foods, with present output of organic foods falling below demand.

In the United States organic foods represent one per cent or US$3.5 billion of total retail food sales. "Organic farming will not only be a boost to the agricultural development of Guyana but will be a significant contributor to the national economy", Mr. Sawh said.

The minister envisages that Region One will become the "organic capital" of Guyana, but pointed out that there is also potential for organic production in five other regions. There is also scope for diversifying into other organic crops such as peanuts and fruits and organic beef production.

Citing Region Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo) in relation to beef production, the minister said cattle there eat organically grown grass, therefore the beef produced is organic. But he cautioned that an authentication and certification process is essential for organic foods to enter international markets and this process can be expensive.

He said concerns have been raised about products from other parts of the world labelled organic without being properly authenticated and certified.

But gratifying to note was the recent certification obtained by the Mabaruma/Hosororo Cocoa Growers Association which exported one tonne of organic cocoa to Europe last year and this year is expected to double that.

Great prospects also lie in producing organic sugar and it is encouraging in this regard that experimentation has already begun with the establishment of an experimental plot at the Uitvlugt/Leonora Estate, West Coast Demerara. This development is even more crucial in the context of the scheduled end to preferential markets for sugar, which will require the sugar industry to be very competitive.

Prince Charles at a conference on organic agriculture last month had extremely complimentary remarks on the organic programme in Guyana.

"What is also notable in this case is the fact that these Amerindian farmers in Guyana are likely to follow in the months ahead with different produce. Word is getting around to other small communities who want to follow the success of this regeneration programme", he said.

Word is indeed getting around and the prospects for an organic takeoff are good.