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|Pro-active national policies ensure food security in Guyana|
|Saturday, 26 March 2011 23:32|
- Minister Persaud
GUYANA has pro-active national policies to ensure that it copes with global changes, especially relating to food security, according to Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud. In an invited comment on Tuesday, Persaud acknowledged there is no other important output such as food and said civilisations have risen and disappeared due to both the availability and unavailability of it.
Mr. Persaud said Guyana has seen severe shortages and high prices for it, due to low levels of production, neglect of the agricultural sector and prohibition of certain items in the midst of an undemocratic system in the past, which caused one of the darkest times in local history.
“Mothers and children were forced to endure long lines in rain and scorching heat to access basic food items. Horse guards were brought in to control crowds. I remember joining my mother in the lines and looking forward, with much anticipation, to getting the scarce food items. And this took place even when there was no global food crisis,” he said.
Persaud said the policies that existed then were proven to be the recipe for widespread hunger and malnutrition, a fact reflected in the health statistics of that period.
“The reality today is one of abundance and accessibility to food by all the people of Guyana. Learning from our past and planning for the future, the Government has, over the years, taken the appropriate policy interventions and sensible planning,” he said.
Persaud said starting the ‘Grow More Food’ campaign underscored the importance of developing a modern and competitive production system in Guyana and that drive has contributed, significantly.
He boasted that Guyana has come a far way in reducing hunger and poverty across the country.
Persaud said some results of the campaign are:
* increased investment in infrastructure, drainage and irrigation, laboratories and access roads;
* renewed focus on extension services;
* introduction of relevant technologies;
* more access to financing, especially for small farmers;
* a comprehensive agriculture diversification and export strategy;
* special programmes for small farmers and
* incentives for large/commercial-sized farmers.
“The range and scope of the interventions have been substantial. But still much more remains to be done. And much more must and will be done to better our food production systems,” he assured.
Persaud said Guyana is, today, among the few net exporters of food in the Latin America and Caribbean regions.
However, he conceded that Guyanese are not living in the proverbial ‘Garden of Eden’, as there remain remote and hinterland communities where, due to climatic conditions, supplies can be tight.
But there are more incentives to produce.
The minister explained that, within the framework of the ‘Grow More Food’ campaign, the Agriculture Export Diversification Programme and the Rural Enterprise Agricultural Development (READ) projects are being co-funded by international partners who have supported national policies.
He said, in order to prevent a return of hunger, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government is continuously increasing investment in agriculture, expanding safety nets and social assistance programmes and enhancing income-generating activities for the rural and urban poor.
Persaud said the commitments and vision are in place for maintaining a viable agricultural economy in the face of climate change and other constraints.
He posited that the visionary Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) offers a clear outlook for fully realising Guyana’s potential as the region’s leading food producer.
“Yes, our farmers still face challenges like their counterparts across the globe, battling the effects of climate change, dealing with unpredictable costs of inputs, limited market support systems and less than sufficient capital to realise their potential and a limited agro-processing sector due to our reliance on fossil energy. But that will change when hydroelectricity comes on stream,” Persaud said.
He maintained that national initiatives undertaken are aimed at addressing such challenges.
“All our citizens can be proud that, as the world endures another food crisis, Guyana is in a better place to cushion the effects and, more importantly, position itself to benefit from better prices and more secured markets for our products,” Persaud said.
He said more countries and people are looking at Guyana to ease the region’s food insecurity and he has always asserted, to the international partners and investors, that a dollar spent in agriculture here not only benefits Guyanese.
“It is an indirect investment in the region’s food supply system. We are now seeing an increase in regional private sector investment in the food production sector,” Persaud reported.
“Mothers and children were forced to endure long lines in rain and scorching heat to access basic food items. Horse guards were brought in to control crowds. I remember joining my mother in the lines and looking forward, with much anticipation, to getting the scarce food items. And this took place even when there was no global food crisis…” – Minister Robert Persaud
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