Vision for agriculture
May 6, 2007
PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo's unequivocal declaration of support last Friday for the future of sugar, a vital sector of Guyana's economy, was perhaps his way of expressing faith in the government's planned push for agricultural expansion and diversification with maximum use of new technologies and modern marketing techniques.
Coincidentally, while the President was pointing to the difficulties facing the region's sugar industry and related negotiations with the European Union (EU) for improved market access and conditions for sugar, assessment was taking place on the outcome of a Special Ministerial Conference on Sugar that concluded in Fiji on Thursday.
He is evidently undaunted by the lingering differences between the EU and sugar-exporting countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group on the challenges posed by Europe's new Sugar Protocol.
Consequently, the President spoke optimistically of the government's determination to "reverse" the social and economic deficits of the past, with a new, coordinated and sustained strategy in agricultural expansion and diversification as well as continued and more favourable attention being paid to the rising tourism sector.
Guyana's delegation to last week's ACP-EC Special Conference on Sugar in Fiji was headed by Foreign Trade Minister Dr. Henry Jeffrey. A statement would most likely be forthcoming from him later this week.
Already, however, it seems that one of the very knotty issues that could even involve collective legal action, if necessary, by the ACP group of sugar producing countries, is whether the European Commission (EC) will avoid including the new Sugar Protocol in the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) currently under negotiations.
Sugar remains a critical pillar of Guyana's economy and it is not without significance that Corentyne was chosen as the region for observing the 50th anniversary of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) training school.
In that region is the high profile US$169 million sugar modernisation project that is nearing completion at Skeldon, and which speaks to the imagination for sugar's future in the nation's overall economic strategy.
Plans for the development of bio-fuels to reduce the heavy and costly dependence on fossil-fuels, with ethanol production as the expected first step, must be viewed within the context of the agricultural diversification strategy programme.
President Jagdeo, currently shouldering lead responsibility among CARICOM leaders for the region's agricultural sector, would be expected to have a special focus on Guyana's role in the community's strategy.
There is a general recognition of Guyana's capacity to provide leadership in the implementation of plans for a drastic reduction in the region's huge annual food imports of no less than US$3 billion.
This approach is linked to a cohesive partnership process to achieve regional food security within CARICOM, consistent with the vision for a seamless regional economy.