Great potential for sustainable production of organic produce
- UK soil expert
Stabroek News
February 17, 2002

Cashew-nuts, fresh and processed fruits, and tropical vegetables are some of the products identified by visiting consultant from the British Soil Association, John Myers, as having the potential to be organically farmed in keeping with strict United Kingdom (UK) and European Union (EU) guidelines.

Myers, at the end of a nine-day visit to assess the country's organic agriculture potential, lauded the efforts to develop the sector and said he saw great potential for the sustainable production of organic produce.

According to the soil expert, there was also scope for the export of coconuts, as well as herbs and spices, among a range of other products.

However, he highlighted certain constraints, including the lack of adequate infrastructure such as essential farm-to-market transportation.

Minister of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock, Satyadeow Sawh, through whose office the visit was arranged, alluded that measures will be put in place to aid the sector's development while confirming government's priority interest.

According to the minister, constraints highlighted by Myers would be carefully examined and efforts made to minimize or counter them.

Myers briefed members of the media at the end of his visit, which entailed discussions with several agencies associated with organic produce and tours of areas identified for such ventures.

Meanwhile, the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) which coordinated the consultant's visit also held a seminar where discussions focused on the development of a national regulatory framework as a guide to the production of organic produce.

Commenting on the document being developed, Myers acknowledged its worthiness but stated that other principles dealing with various mechanisms of production needed to be included.

British High Commissioner, Edward Glover commenting on the visit of Myers observed that there are excellent opportunities existing for the development of the country's organic agriculture sector. He also shared some of the soil expert's concerns about getting the produce from the farmers to the supermarket shelves.

Potential commercial buyers, the high commissioner announced, were expected to arrive soon to assess produce with the likelihood of sales once they found favour with what they saw.

While challenging farmers to rise to the occasion, Glover reiterated the need for produce of high quality, and a regular supply at the right price to satisfy the growing need for organic products in a sector that is growing at 40% per year.

He also urged the producers as a pre-requisite to certification to get themselves into associations to be able to access the available market.

Questioned on the issue of certification for organic produce, Glover stated that this would depend on what was being produced, citing the example of the cocoa from Hosororo which was being considered by the certification body in Holland.

While noting that it would be difficult for individual farmers to be certified, he stressed that once they formed themselves into groups they would be guided towards the relevant certifying body.

He said he hoped that the government would consider a broader national approach to the issue of certification and have one body dealing with the issue rather than a multiplicity.

Sawh said that efforts were being directed towards developing the necessary legislation to guide the sector, which he stated was geared for a quantum leap as a result of the latest positive prospects.

Among the key areas being targeted for the production of organic produce Region One (Barima/Waini), Region Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam), Region Three (Essequibo Islands/West Demerara) and Region Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo). Organic produce is that which is free of chemical inputs, especially those of a synthetic nature.

The demand for organic products, according to Glover, results from the growing need for safe food in light of the BSE (mad cow disease) and other scares, along with the growing debate in the UK over genetically grown products.

As people get more disposable incomes, there is a growing need to purchase more expensive foods that contain less chemical inputs, leading supermarkets to source such produce internationally outside of once regular suppliers who use chemicals extensively.