Agriculture records credible success through exports Minister

Kaieteur News
January 6, 2007

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Despite numerous challenges during the past year, the Agriculture Ministry was able to record credible success which, in turn, has contributed significantly to the local economy.

Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud made this disclosure when he hosted a press conference, yesterday, at which he reviewed the sector's achievements.

Prior to the successes, enormous challenges were presented by the roll-over effects of extensive flooding in 2005, which were compounded by another such situation in 2006, Persaud explained.

The assassination of former Agriculture Minister Satyadeo Sawh also proved to be a major setback.

Additionally, the EU sugar price cuts and other trade-related developments forced some adjustments to the regular export markets, Persaud asserted.

However, according to the Minister, timely adjustments were made in response to the impact of the floods, and appropriate action was taken through collaborative efforts among the Ministry's agencies. As such, major emphasis was placed on animal welfare, health, and food safety, Persaud stressed.

The sector was effectively revamped, and credible performances resulted, Persaud continued.

The exportation of traditional crops last year was instrumental in increasing local revenue earnings, with rice incurring an export value of more than US$54M, in comparison to just over US$46M in 2005.

However, despite the increase in revenue, Persaud noted, the projected target was affected by the loss of approximately 12,000 acres in the first crop, due to flooding and damage by cattle.

It was an increase in the yield, from the projected 68 bags per hectare to 72 bags per hectare, for the second crop, which provided a much needed boost, Persaud disclosed.

The production of sugar amounted to some 259, 491 tonnes, and it was revealed that this allowed for adequate supply to all relevant markets.

According to the Minister, Guysuco was able to meet its entire EU and US bulk sugar commitments, despite the lower than budgeted production.

The EU Sugar Protocol was provided with over 173,554 tonnes against a budget of 167,000 - faced with shortfall reallocations of approximately 3,000 tonnes for the 2005/2006 delivery year.

The EU special preferential sugars, the US quota, and the package sugars, as well as bagged Demerara Gold sales all fared similarly, according to Persaud.

He, however, emphasised that there was an outstanding growth of the packaged sugar market, which has been phenomenal, from 500 tonnes in 2003 to 4,731tonnes in 2006.

In the forestry sector, export sales amounted to more than US$58M, compared to US$48M in 2005.

And in keeping with the principles of the NDS and the National Competitiveness Strategy regarding the need for diversification, the Ministry of Agriculture has intensified its efforts which focus on the production and marketing of non-traditional commodities.

The exportation of non-traditional crops was also fostered over the past year, Persaud informed, with export volume for the period January to November reaching an all-time high of 4,437 tonnes, compared to 4,272 for the same period in 2005.

The value of last year's exports amounted to US$6M which, according to Persaud, reflected a healthy increase in production, export, and export earnings.

The Agriculture sector, over the years, has been able to contribute significantly to the Gross Domestic Product, something the Minister is confident occurred last year. Actual figures are still being tallied by the Finance Ministry.

Meanwhile, several projects have already been effected by the Agriculture Ministry, and these, according to Persaud, will be detailed after the announcement of this year's budget allocations. (Sharmain Grainger)