Bull Nose big push
Guyana Chronicle
February 6, 2007

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GUYANA’S potential as a major competitive exporter of hot pepper to the lucrative North American market was given a significant boost yesterday, with the handing over of 30,000 Bull Nose plants to 20 farmers of Parika Back Dam, a prime agricultural community in Region Three (Essequibo Islands/West Demerara).

United States Ambassador, Mr. David Robinson was among those at the ceremony at which Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud implored farmers to maintain reliability and ethical business practices to hold markets if they are to successfully compete internationally.

Persaud made this exhortation against the backdrop of some farmers abandoning their obligated markets for temporary higher prices, and urged them to desist from such practices. These, in the long term, will harm them because in today’s world agricultural production is market driven, he warned.

He noted too that there is “something special about farmers” because they are involved in the production of food which is essential, and in the context of Guyana their contribution is immense as agriculture accounts for about 35% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Persaud stressed the need for agricultural sustainability through diversification and in this regard, noting that with support of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) this route will be vigorously pursued.

He also endorsed the partnership approach to agricultural development, pointing out that it is the best way to go in view of the fact that the government, while it is totally committed to agriculture, does not have adequate resources.

The Bull Nose pepper project has amply demonstrated the effectiveness of the partnership approach, Persaud observed, adding that several agencies participated, including the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), the New Guyana Marketing Corporation (NGMC), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Guyana Trade and Investment Support (GTIS) project, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Poor Rural Community Support Services Programme (PRCSSP) and the farmers.

He urged farmers also to become involved in the establishment of nurseries which will relieve government agencies of this task and at the same time boost their income.

In this regard, the minister lauded the initiative of Forbes McGarrell, who has an established nursery, and has been involved in the production of seedlings for the project. He urged other farmers to emulate McGarrell.

Persaud said the national budget presented to the National Assembly by Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh last Friday has outlined several incentives and support towards agricultural production in recognition of Guyana’s agricultural export potential.

He lamented that that while the annual food import bill of CARICOM countries is $3 billion Guyana’s contribution is only US$7M.

He announced that to further boost agricultural export potential a contract under the PRCSSP to build a packaging house at Parika will be awarded shortly.

Ambassador Robinson said the future of a country lies in the soil and its people and linking producers to the market is the key to development.

Through such an approach, he said, Guyana can compete successfully, adding that market driven production is the way forward.

He also said his country is proud to be part of the hot pepper project.

Director of USAID, Dr. Fenton Sands said that all farmers need is a “push” to get moving, as has happened in the pepper project, and this process will be accelerated through the “pull” of the market.

A partnership between the public and private sectors, he said, is also essential to increase production and link it to the market which will result in several positive spin-offs, such as increasing employment and stimulating the development of other businesses, including trucking and packaging, which in turn will enhance national development.

According to the NGMC, it is planned that within the next three months, sixty acres of pepper will be under cultivation, and within a year cultivation is expected to triple to 180 acres which will allow for 30,000 pounds of quality Bull Nose pepper to be shipped weekly, and an annual export of 1.5 billion pounds valuing some US$750, 000.

However, in addition, some one million pounds of secondary peppers will be available for processing and the project is in search of processors to create value-added products from the non-export quality peppers. (CHAMANLALL NAIPAUL)