(GUYANA CHRONICLE)THE Government of Guyana will soon send a team of technical agricultural personnel to Trinidad and Tobago to assist in that country’s production of aromatic rice, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha has said.
Minister Mustapha in an exclusive interview with the Guyana Chronicle, said that there are currently several ongoing collaborations among Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados.
He said before the end of July, Guyana’s Chief Scientist/Plant Breeder at the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), Dr Mahendra Persaud, will travel to the twin-island republic and lead the technical team from Guyana.
“We have a number of exchanges that will happen between Trinidad and Guyana, and Barbados and Guyana,” Minister Mustapha said.
While the partnership between Guyana and the twin-island republic does not appear to be limited to one crop, Minister Mustapha expressly said, “we will also help them in Trinidad to do the aromatic rice planting.”
“We are looking to assist them there. Dr Mahendra from the rice research station will be one of the technical persons to visit Trinidad shortly,” the minister disclosed.
He also said a team is set to visit Barbados for discussions on aquaculture. Another team visited the island some time ago as Guyana continues to build relations in agriculture with the eastern-most CARICOM member. Students from the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA) have also visited the island.
These collaborations, he explained, are a part of the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) efforts to reduce the region’s food-importation bill by 25 per cent by the year 2025.
Collaboration has been a top priority to governments in the region to achieve the ambitious target.
Minister Mustapha said at Guyana’s recently concluded Agri-Investment Forum and Expo in May, that several CARICOM leaders emphasized the importance of collaboration as the region is already behind in achieving its goals.
“It is important that we cooperate and collaborate now more than ever, because when we had the investment forum and the opening ceremony, more than seven Heads-of-State who spoke there said that we are late almost by 20 years,” Mustapha said.
He noted further that CARICOM is currently looking at Guyana for leadership in agricultural innovation and will adopt not only the ‘Jagdeo Initiative’ for removing constraints to the development of agriculture in the Caribbean, but also the strategies outlined for food security by President, Dr Irfaan Ali.
“If we had implemented the Jagdeo Initiative, we would have been further [along] in moving the Agri-system ahead; however, it is not too late and we will continue,” the Agriculture Minister said, adding: “We will look at… what we call the binding constraints of agriculture and also look at the leadership that President Ali is giving to CARICOM.”
According to Mustapha, CARICOM has become more cognizant of the importance of enhancing the Agri-food system and finding solutions to the constraints and barriers the region is facing in its production chain.
“I think that we are, in the first time in the history of CARICOM, [ready] to move the Agri-food systems forward and also to look at those problems we have been encountering with barriers that have been affecting the produce around the Caribbean,” he expressed.
Guyana, he underscored, will continue to be a leader in pushing food security and agriculture.
“We are seeing now the willingness of CARICOM to move the process forward to reduce the food-import bill.
“[T]he food-import bill now is very high and if we continue we cannot sustain,” Minister Mustapha exclaimed, underscoring, again, that “if we [CARICOM] are to reduce it, Guyana has to play that leading role, which we are doing.”
Meanwhile, President Ali has received praise from the various CARICOM leaders for his efforts and plans to transform agriculture in the region.
Guyana’s Head-of-State holds the responsibility for Agriculture, Agricultural Diversification and Food Security in the CARICOM quasi-Cabinet.
At the 33rd Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM in Belize earlier this year, President Ali outlined an action-oriented and solution-based proposal, aimed at reducing the region’s food-importation bill by 25 per cent by 2025.
There, the President addressed each country’s report of current and target commodities to achieve the 25 per cent reduction by 2025 and detailed where the constraints existed and where action could be taken.