Guyana’s traditional sectors, particularly the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries, did not perform as expected for 2019. During the presentation of his maiden budget 2020 speech, Minister of Public Infrastructure and Finance, Bishop Juan Edghill revealed that the three industries contracted by 0.5 percent, on account of declines in sugar, livestock, and forestry.
Expounding on the performance of the sugar industry, Minister Edghill revealed that it contracted for a fourth consecutive year, with production declining by 11.8 percent from the previous year, to 92,256 tonnes, approximately 21,000 tonnes below the original forecast for the year. He said that this was primarily due to a shortfall of more than 14,000 tonnes in the second crop below the revised target, which was attributed to major mechanical failures in the Albion and Uitvlugt factories. Additionally, the Finance Minister said that industrial unrest and adverse weather further contributed to the industry’s underperformance in the second crop.
With respect to the rice-growing industry, Edghill said that it expanded by one percent in 2019, with paddy production reaching 1,049,874 tonnes, 8.8 percent above the previous year and 0.8 percent short of the record production of 1,058,129 tonnes attained in 2015. The increase over 2018 was attributed to more hectares being harvested as well as higher yields, which rose by 6.9 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively.
In relation to the production of other crops, Edghill said that this industry is estimated to have grown by 0.3 percent in 2019, with total production, excluding coconuts, rising by 1.5 percent above the previous year. This was driven by expansions in the production of pumpkin, cocoa, ginger, pineapples, sweet peppers and oranges. On the other hand, Edghill said that there were notable declines in tomato and watermelon production, which fell by 12.9 percent and 18.2 percent, respectively.
Like other crops, Minister Edghill disclosed that the livestock industry saw mixed outcomes in 2019. He said that beef production grew by 23.5 percent; pork by 66.9 percent; mutton by 8.3 percent; and, table eggs by 45.3 percent. Despite these gains, the Finance Minister said that the declines in poultry production, by 7.6 percent, and milk production, by 9.1 percent, resulted in a contraction of 3.5 percent in the livestock industry.
As for the forestry industry, Minister Edghill said that it also contracted in 2019, by 3.9 percent, undoing the gains in the previous two years. He explained that this was on account of declines in log production, by 5.2 percent, and primary lumber, by 3.6 percent. In the first quarter of 2019, the parliamentarian said that lower activity by large concessionaires resulted in reduced log production. While log production improved in the second and third quarters, he was keen to note that lower prices led to a low declaration of stored jungle stocks by concessionaires in the final quarter. With regards to primary lumber, Guyana Standard understands that production in the first four months of the year outpaced the 2018 level, resulting in considerable gains at the half-year. However, in the final two months of 2019, production was significantly below the 2018 level, and resulted in a contraction in this product category in 2019.
Turning his attention to the fishing industry, Edghill said that it grew marginally, by 0.7 percent, despite a sargassum weed invasion, which affected industrial fishing operations. Expounding further, Minister Edghill said that industrial finfish production declined by 57.8 percent, and industrial seabob production by 29.7 percent. The decline in the latter was also attributed to efforts by companies to attain Marine Stewardship Council certification, which requires the implementation of harvest control rules as well as the use of by-catch reduction devices. He noted however that gains in artisanal finfish, red snapper, tuna, and prawns production were enough to offset the contractions in industrial finfish and seabob.