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Speaking at the World Food Day celebration at the National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI) at Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara, Sawh, who is also performing the duties of Agriculture Minister, deplored the staggering US$3 Billion annual food import bill of the Caribbean.
Mr. Sawh questioned the reason for such an astounding food import bill in an era when there is growing need for developing countries to be more self-sufficient. He urged that persons in this part of the world undergo a transformation of their minds.
The Minister noted the influence of the media, especially television, which helps to create the impression that overseas products are better than the local counterparts.
Sawh declared that items of local food produce are equal in quality and nutrition to foreign products, and he urged Guyanese to produce what they consume and consume what they produce in order to create and sustain jobs here. Such a development, he stressed, would help to expand the nation’s economic base and so “lift our people out of this vicious cycle of poverty”.
Yesterday’s event was attended by a wide cross-section of persons including students, businessmen and members of the Diplomatic Corps.
The Minister, who shared the head table with CARICOM’s Agriculture Advisor Mr. Sam Lawrence, UNDP Resident Representative Mr. Jan Sand Sorensen and NARI ’s Director Dr Oudho Homenauth, informed the gathering of the nation’s progress in the agriculture sector, and called for an alliance in the fight against poverty.
Noting that the ‘Caribbean Week of Agriculture’ was recently held here, Sawh stated that Guyana has not been left out of the fight against poverty and has proven herself to be worthy of such an alliance.
“As an agricultural nation, we are always proud to be part of activities which bring our agriculture to the forefront and highlight the need for this sector to be recognised as the foundation sector for reducing malnutrition and increasing food security nationally, regionally and worldwide,” the Minister added.
Sawh acknowledged recent, successful activities, which include last week’s Trade Fair at Sophia. He also spoke of the many positive happenings in his Ministry. These include:
· A poultry sub-sector production increase from 3,090 tonnes in 1992 to 13,638 tonnes in 2001.
· Investment in the poultry industry climbed from US$30M in 2000 to US$50M with many farmers investing in state-of-the-art equipment and production systems.
· Through teamwork, the country maintained the non-traditional Barbados market; regained the Antigua/Barbuda market and certified and maintained certification of over 300 farm products for export to Barbados, Antigua and North America.
· Fresh agricultural produce processed at the Central Packaging facility of the New Guyana Marketing Corporation recorded 488 tonnes in 2001 and 698 tonnes in 2002.
· The fisheries sub-sector is now strengthened with Fisheries Legislation. That sector also maintained certification for exportation of shrimp and other seafood products to the United States of America.
· Total production in this sector climbed from 41,338 metric tonnes in 1991 to 53,851 metric tonnes in 2001, while exports increased from 5,698 to over 10,000 metric tonnes for the same period.
· The sugar industry increased production from 246,522 tonnes in 1993 to 331,050 tonnes in 2002. Plans are in progress to expand this industry, which would include production of refined sugar in 2006 with 60 per cent being exported and the cultivation at Skeldon to be increased from 4,000 to 14,000 hectares.
During his presentation, the Minister paid tribute to every stakeholder in the agriculture industry. He extended wishes to them on the occasion of World Food Day. Sawh paid special homage to the farmers, who till the soil working long before the rising of the sun and for hours after sunset. (Shirwin Campbell)