Huge interest from Diaspora in agri investments – Head of Diaspora Unit

The hydroponics farm at Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara

With Guyana’s “25 by 2025” vision in mind, interest continues to be shown, particularly from the Diaspora, in agricultural investments in Guyana – so much so that there are those in the Diaspora looking to acquire large tracts of land for the cultivation of various crops.

Making this disclosure was Head of the Diaspora Unit, Rosalinda Rasul, in an interview with this publication. The Unit, which interfaces directly with Guyanese living in the Diaspora, continues to field interest from the Diaspora in a wide range of investments, including in agriculture.

Head of the Diaspora Unit, Rosalinda Rasul

“We do have several interests in the area of agriculture. And one of the things again, we’re very cautious about that, well we all know about the “25 by 2025” initiative by the President. So that’s gotten a lot of people excited,” Rasul said.

“What we’re doing is basically providing information to them about the specific areas that the Government is targeting when it comes to agriculture, that makes their investment a little more targeted and would help the Government achieve its objectives, in the end.”

Rasul further noted that the Diaspora’s interest in large tracts of land for investment in agriculture remains high. However, she noted that they have had to temper expectations in some cases, because the land being requested was either too large or not available.

“One of the things we have to guide our Diaspora in is their asking for land. Because some of them are asking for large tracts of land to engage in an agricultural project. But then our technical persons are telling us, you don’t necessarily need all that land to produce certain number of yields. You can do hydroponics. Depends on what crop you’re looking at.”

The hydroponics farm at Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara

“So, we have several of those in agriculture, basically that we’re still working on them. I think for us, it’s to get past the land issue of not asking for way too much land. I remember we were talking about this yesterday, about a Guyanese in New York, who wants 200 acres of land for rice production,” Rasul said.

According to her, while the Unit did do checks to see whether this potential investor’s request was a fulfillable one, a single 200-acre parcel of land was not available. Rasul indicated that this was an example of the assistance her Unit provides to investors.

“We did some checks on that and they, unfortunately, wouldn’t have been able to get 200 acres of land, at least not an entire tract. Probably in parts. So that’s something we’re working with them as to how well this can be implemented,” she explained.

Vision 25 by 2025, which was first conceptualised by President Dr Irfaan Ali, aims for the Caribbean to achieve a 25 per cent reduction in the Region’s food import bill by the year 2025. Owing to the Region’s dependency on imported foods, it faces hardships when disruptions occur. And in light of this, the intention was to formulate a sense of food stability and security.

The Agriculture Ministry was allocated $97.6 billion in Budget 2024 for the advancement of the industry. The largest portion of the agriculture budget, totalling $72.3 billion, is earmarked for drainage and irrigation works, the acquisition of 40 mobile pumps, and $6 billion to bolster the sugar industry, specifically targeting improvements in GuySuCo’s production and operational efficiency.

Additionally, of the $97.6 billion budgeted for the agriculture sector, $1.3 billion would be expended by the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) to support increased production and productivity in the rice industry.

In terms of other crops, cultivation of corn, soya bean, citrus, spices, coconuts, and high-value crops such as broccoli, cauliflowers, bell peppers, romaine lettuce and carrots would be expanded. In 2024, Government would continue to accelerate coconut production by investing in 39,000 high-yielding seed nuts as 500 additional farmers are targeted.