Agriculture accounts for about a third of Guyana’s entire gross domestic product and this industry is responsible for an equivalent number of jobs in the nation. GBTI helps local Guyanese farms through agricultural loans that and is now one of the nation’s largest agricultural lenders.
Guyana has actually been called the “breadbasket” of the Caribbean due to its agricultural production. The primary agricultural exports for the country include sugar, rice, forestry, and seafood, although many other products are grown in Guyana.
Understanding the unique pressures on this industry and the trends can help farmers prepare for the future and ensure they protect their livelihoods. In recent years, extreme weather, declining productivity, and instability in commodity prices have all presented challenges for the country’s agriculture system. However, going forward, the agricultural sector is poised for growth. Here’s what you need to know:
Emerging Opportunities for Agriculture in Guyana
Moving forward, the longstanding sugar and rice industries in the country will likely continuing contributing substantially the nation’s economy. However, it is important to recognize that non-traditional agriculture has shown exciting growth potential in recent years.
In the past few years, there have been significant increases in the export of prepared foods likes coconut milk, spices, and jams. The non-traditional agriculture sector needs more investment in facilities and quality assurance to become a more significant part of Guyana’s exports, but the potential for growth is significant.
In addition, Guyana has significant potential for a fishery industry considering its long coastline along the Atlantic Ocean and the network of rivers throughout the country. Guyana became certified to export seafood to the European Union and has long exported to the United States.
Historically, the seafood industry focused on wild-caught seafood, but aquaculture has recently attracted a significant amount of investment. Some segments of the marine market, including prawns and shrimp, are already facing sustainability pressure, which is what makes aquaculture so appealing for the future. Large tilapia and shrimp farming industries have emerged due to private investment and encouragement from the government.
What Farmers Should Know about New Opportunities
Importantly, not all the new opportunities for agricultural growth in Guyana are related to emerging industries. The traditional agriculture sector also has significant opportunities. For example, the mature sugar sector still needs more processing plants to turn the raw product in brown and white sugar. According to the Guyana Sugar Corporation, this remains an underserved segment of the industry.
Also, farmers have opportunities for generating byproducts of sugar production, including ethanol. Similarly, the rice industry needs upgraded milling facilities that make it possible to create value-added rice products. While shipping rice has been lucrative for the country, more money could be earned by producing breakfast cereals, quick-cooking rice, and similar products domestically.
In terms of non-traditional products, a lot of opportunity exists for fresh fruits and vegetables. In the past few years, international demand for fresh produce has grown exponentially. Guyana is well-positioned to provide citrus fruits, as well as exotics like passion fruit, mangoes, and papayas. In terms of fresh fruit, Guyana could easily produce pumpkin, cucumber, and some exotics like bora and seim.
The primary hurdle to entering this industry remains developing modern post-harvest handling procedures to ensure that the products do not spoil during transit. A big part of the issue is time needed to transport products. To enter this market, farmers will need to increase their airlift capacity to export fresh produce in a timely manner.
Another crop that has earned a lot of attention in recent years is quinoa, a seed that is native to South America. Demand for quinoa has grown because of the health benefits associated with the product. While the crop has not historically been grown in Guyana, the conditions are favorable so farmers can also take advantage of this health food trend. Quinoa provides all nine essential amino acids, which is what makes it such a desirable health food product.
Other Guyanese Agricultural Industries with Growth Potential
While livestock and dairy have not traditionally been major Guyanese exports, this could change in the coming years. Recently, many investment opportunities have emerged in the meat industry, especially in terms of production of beef, mutton, and poultry. There is also potential to export milk and related products to Caribbean islands, where it is difficult to generate these items. Guyana’s savannahs are perfect for large-scale cattle farms, which were once popular decades ago.
Another area that agricultural experts can consider for investment is in support services. This sector is currently emerging, and farmers will need machinery and technology to support production. As already mentioned, there is a particular need for air cargo services. With more flights specifically for agricultural exports, many new opportunities would be available to Guyanese farmers.
In addition, there is a growing need for cold storage facilities and packaging services. The post-harvest handling process in Guyana is in desperate need of modernization. Investors and agricultural experts can find many opportunities for ensuring that farmers export only the highest-quality products. This will, in turn, open even more doors for non-traditional production.