Since March 2020, the unprecedented impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has been felt not only in public health systems, but in the economy. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified Guyana’s awareness of the importance of food security, Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha said today.
The minister was at the time delivering remarks via a webinar hosted by the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA).
Zulfikar said that Guyana is a food secure country, having met global hunger targets in 1996 of the World Food Summit, and in 2000 of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
He added that Guyana produces 59% of the food for consumption, which means that food import dependence is at 41%.
He told the participants that it is the government’s intention to reduce this import dependence by creating an enabling environment for an efficient and competitive local manufacturing sector.
The agriculture sector, both public and private sectors, are struggling to deal with the impact of the pandemic. Whilst, there is no major problem of availability of food, access to food through supply chain interruptions and loss of income are being experienced, he reported.
Guyana recently participated in a regional assessment on the Impacts of COVID-19 on Food Security and the Agriculture sector. This survey was carried out by FAO and CARICOM, during July and August 2020, meanwhile the findings are still preliminary. Some of these include:
a. Decline in farmers’ income – on average of 20-50% income loss of farmers
b. Farmers reported difficulty accessing agriculture inputs – seeds and planting materials, and fertilizer and pesticides
i. Prices of seeds/fertilizer are higher than usual
ii. Seed varieties/ Planting material & Fertilizers and Pesticides) regularly used are not available.
c. Input Supplier and Food Traders recorded lower sales due to business restrictions and client’s restrictions and higher operating cost of agri-businesses
d. Food traders have recorded a decline in customers and thus, the level of sales has decreased
e. Food traders have experienced difficulties in terms of food items transportation in the last 3 months
f. Food traders have recorded an increase in input prices, such as fertilizers and chemicals
g. Looking ahead agri-businesses expect difficulties in market supplies and sales
The Minister said that therefore, Guyana must focus on ways to expand, shift agriculture from primary producer to value-added, to reduce the 41% dependence on imports, which include, processed products, dairy products, grains such as corn and soybean etc.
” This expansion will aid in the reduction of our domestic Food Import Bill of GUY$45Billion. There is also the opportunity for Guyana to tap into the estimated US$8-10B (2020) CARICOM Market (Food Import Bill),” he said.