THE Agriculture Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Arnold Piggott is expected, within the first half of November, to visit Guyana with a team of specialists to hold discussions with his Guyanese counterpart, Dr Leslie
Ramsammy, in regard to establishing a collaborative venture that would address the food security requirements of that sister CARICOM state.
Dr. Ramsammy made this announcement on Thursday last while delivering the feature address at the commissioning of the New Guyana Marketing Corporation’s spanking new $46 million Guyana Shop, located at 87 Robb & Alexander Streets in Lacytown, Georgetown.
Opening of the facility took place at a time when the Agriculture Ministry is celebrating Agriculture Month under the theme: ‘Better technology, better farming-ensuring food security’.
Dr Ramsammy said the Guyana Shop will deal specifically with locally made products produced by the various agro processing units around Guyana, but those products would first have to be certified by the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department.
“As Minister of Agriculture, I could say I have a vested interest, but as a Guyanese, I could say (that) when these doors are opened, all of you will be proud of what you see on those shelves; and those are the signals of the opportunities that lie ahead of us,” the minister assured.
He said the Guyana Shop is about value added, about ensuring farmers and entrepreneurs get together to add value to the Guyanese products.
“As we commission the Guyana Shop, people must know that this is one of the prerequisites for their products to be promoted by the Guyana Shop,” he said.
He asserted that agro processing businesses must not aim only for qualification at the level of the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department, but must seek higher levels of validation, for example ISO certification. He, however, advised that that task was a very difficult and costly exercise.
“The New GMC is mandated to work with the small agro processors as groups, because if there’s an investment to be made by one agro processing unit, it might be a little bit overwhelming and too burdensome; but we could do this as groups,” Ramsammy declared.
Dr Ramsammy disclosed that the New GMC will be making special efforts to improve the prospects of those agro processing units that have not been able to acquire the standard of the Guyana Shop.
“We will work with you. That’s part of the mandate of the New GMC, and I suspect it’s the mandate of the Guyana Agro Processing Unit,” the minister stated.
He explained that steps will be taken through a collaborative effort to make sure that deficits and deficiencies which could hamper progression of businesses are eliminated.
“We will help you overcome them so that your products can become one of those we promote through the Guyana Shop,” he promised.
He stated that Guyana has moved from the time when it was known as a country that produces raw materials to one that produces products of the highest quality.
He said that better days are here for Guyana, but even better days are to come for the country through agro processing.
The Guyana Shops markets more than 400 products from more than 50 agro processors scattered all across Guyana.
“We have jams and juices; we have seasonings, we have varieties of pepper sauces, and we have nutrition types of drinks, among many other local products,” he said.
Through commissioning of the Guyana Shop, local products will become well known across Guyana.
The minister extended a formal invitation to all the agro processor to come on board and be part of the new and successful venture; he noted that the new GMC will do its best to promote their products.
He said that within the next few months, Guyana will introduce several new products, which includes Guyana’s first packaged aromatic rice, to be introduced to the Guyanese public through the Guyana Shop.
“We will have enough to introduce the first 1000 packages, hopefully by Christmas. It will be a milestone for our country. Better than the imported aromatic rice,” he added.
With the establishment of the New Guyana Shop, the Ministry of Agriculture and the New Guyana Marketing Corporation will seek to generate new markets for the country’s products.
According to the minister, although much is in place to assist small-scale producers, the Guyana Shop will also be marketing the products of established companies.
In addition, the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA) is among the suppliers of agro-processed items for the Guyana Shop.
Companies such as NEW GPC INC, Twins Manufacturing Chemists and Nand Persaud Rice Mill have been in existence for more than 50 years; they are already on board with the venture. The management of the Guyana Shop assured the continued creation of linkages between producers and buyers. As the standard of living of Guyana improves, there will be greater demand for more nutritious foods, the minister noted. In this regard, the ministry will continue to assist the local agro-processors to develop better quality foods – foods which are safe to eat, foods which are deemed ISO certified.