Guyanese food producers already supplying Middle Eastern markets – Finance Minister

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Senior Minister with Responsibility for Finance Dr Ashni Singh

On Saturday, Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh used the occasion of the Guyana-Saudi Arabia Investment Engagement, to give the visiting Saudi investors a perspective of the country’s economy, in particular, the state of its agriculture sector which has grown to the point that Guyana counts the middle east amongst its export markets.

According to the Finance Minister, Guyana aims to take its place as the food basket of the Caribbean through investments in mega-farms and also boosting the supply chain systems and transport networks, while promoting climate-smart agriculture.

“Our strategy is aligned with the Caricom agenda to reduce, by 25 per cent, the Caribbean’s food import bill by 2025. And this will require significantly ramped up food production within Guyana. Our target is not only the Caribbean market but in fact markets further afield.”

“And there are already producers of food commodities in Guyana, some of whom you may meet later, who are already supplying some food commodities to countries in the middle east, Europe and elsewhere,” Singh said.

The President Dr Irfaan Ali-led Government has been at the forefront of an aggressive campaign to dismantle regional barriers to agricultural trade. President Ali has said that in the next four years, with the assistance of more diversified crops, Guyana would aim to reduce Caricom’s food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025.

Months after assuming office, President Ali had charged the Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry to assess and address the hurdles related to exporting food and agricultural products to markets within the Region. As such, concerns about barriers to trade in some Caricom markets were raised with the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) earlier this year.

The Ministry subsequently formed a National Working Group on Barriers to Trade against Exports from Guyana. According to the assessment of market access by the Working Group, most of the challenges found were related to technical measures including sanitary and phytosanitary measures. It also found several technical and administrative regulations that were all hampering the export of Guyanese products.

A section of the Saudi Arabian delegation of investors

When it comes to other sectors, including transport and infrastructure, Minister Singh noted that work has already been advanced on a number of key projects including the new US$261 million modern high-span bridge across the Demerara River.

“A US$190 million Linden to Mabura road, which is the first phase of the road that will link our capital Georgetown to the Northern states of Brazil, thereby unlocking the tremendous potential of hemispheric integration. A bridge across the Corentyne river to improve trade and access between Guyana and Suriname and transport infrastructure to improve access throughout Guyana.”

“In the area of housing and urban development, our plans include the development of a new city. Here again, is something you will recognise in Saudi Arabia. We’re not doing it on quite the same scale as you are doing it. Our scale is quite modest. But we plan to develop a vibrant, sustainable new smart city, that will be designed to be energy efficient, interconnected, and sustainable.”

Silica City, for which designs for the first phase are expected to commence this year, is a new city planned along the Linden-Soesdyke Highway that the Government envisions will, over the next two decades, grow to hold more than 12,500 households.

The new city is intended to be one of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government’s climate change mitigation strategies. While the city will eventually grow to house more than 12,500 households, Housing Minister Collin Croal had explained that it will initially cater to just over 3000 households in the first five years. Additionally, a whopping 3800 acres of land have been earmarked for the new city.

Nor will Silica City be any ordinary city. According to the Minister, the city will be a smart one, powered by renewable energy and developed with the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and goal 11 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which speaks to building sustainable cities and communities, in mind.

Silica City is a development the PPP/C Government had initiated talks on prior to leaving office in 2015, but which was never continued under the succeeding A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition Government.

In his first year in office in 2020, President Ali revealed that Government had begun discussions on Silica City as a secondary city. He had explained that the Government was looking at an area on the Linden-Soesdyke Highway that would be connected to the new four-lane bypass road.