Budget Speech - Mr Baksh—20143803 01 Apr, 2014
Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture [Mr. Baksh]: Mr. Speaker, I wish to commend the Hon. Dr. Ashni Singh and his team for a well prepared and presented Budget 2014 under the theme, A Better Guyana for All Guyanese.
Mr. Speaker, agriculture in Guyana accounts for more than 33% of total employment and 25% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). There has been increasing investments in agriculture with support to farmer and domestic investors, thus creating an increase in production and improved living standards for all Guyanese.
The year 2013 was a difficult year for agriculture, taking into consideration the vulnerable weather patterns we experienced. As a result, the Ministry had to extend additional services in all regions of our country. This honourable House would agree that we faced many challenges in the sugar industry due to the recent cycles of dry and flood-like conditions, managerial problems, lack of adequate human resources and need for advance technologies.
Weather forecasting is even more important today because of the impact of climate change. Agriculture is very sensitive to weather and climatic conditions. An early warning system is being developed to make farmers more aware of weather predictions and how to apply these to agriculture planning of crops and livestock.
On the other hand, 2013 was a favourable year for rice production. The rice industry of Guyana experienced another record-breaking year in 2013 with a production equivalent to more than 535,439 metric tonnes of rice, a 26.9% increase over the 2012 production of 423,000 metric tonnes. It was the first time ever that a Caribbean country recorded more than 500,000 metric tonnes of rice in a calendar year.
Guyana’s rice export for 2013 almost reached 400,000 metric tonnes compared to 334,141metric tonnes exported in 2012.This represents export earnings of US$239,829,389 for 2013, compared to US$196,226,960 for the year 2012, representing an increase in earnings of 22.2%.
The Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture and the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), has provided support to the industry through a number of mechanisms, more recently, the importation of urea fertiliser, 5000 metric tonnes of which was sold to rice farmers. This programme resulted in the price for urea being reduced by other suppliers, allowing farmers to access fertiliser for their entire acreage at lower prices than previous crops.
It is worthy to note that Guyana had successfully hosted the 12th Caribbean Week of Agriculture, which was held under the theme, Linking the Caribbean for Regional Food and Nutrition Security and Rural Development, which was held during the period 4th – 12th October, 2013. This attracted participants from South Pacific countries, Canada and the Caribbean at large. During the week, intense discussions were conducted as it relates to agro-research to enhance agriculture production in Guyana and the Caribbean region.
Guyana is on the path of developing a viable and vibrant agriculture sector by being food secure, as we have commenced a sustainable shift from subsistence agriculture to a productive agricultural industry that allows farmers to take part in the market economy. Such a shift will involve far-reaching structural changes to boost production, productivity and, eventually, incomes for farmers and cooperatives alike.
With respect to climate change adaptation, we continued to promote shadehouse cultivation as a mechanism to intensify vegetable production on a year round basis. Demonstration farms were established at St. Ignatius, Sand Hill, Maraikobai and Tarlogie. Structures were also established at Onderneeming and at Hope Estate. Also, several schools in various parts of the country are involved in same.
In 2013, our National Agriculture Research & Extension Institute (NAREI) continued to empower farming communities throughout the country with the appropriate technology to improve production and productivity of non-traditional crops. Emphasis was also placed on the management of Acoushi ants in Regions 1, 7, 8 and 10 as well as in other communities such as Maraikobai and the Soesdyke/Linden Highway. Support was provided to the Blue Flame Women’s Group in Region 1 to enhance their value-added cocoa products. From other interventions made, there has also been an increase in ginger production, especially from Region 1.
In excess of 5,000 farmers benefitted from crop production practices, fertilisers and disease management and nursery practices training sessions. Three large scale cassava farms have been established in Region 9. Similarly, the facility at Ebini will be completely rehabilitated at the cost of $66 million.
The non-traditional crops have also performed satisfactorily for the year 2013 as overall the production of fruits and vegetables increased. The Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) has worked arduously to promote the sale of Guyanese grown and manufactured products. As such, in 2013, the Guyana Shop through the Guyana Marketing Corporation organised various expositions such as the Coconut Exposition, the Honey Exposition and the Pineapple Festival. This helped farmers, organisations and individuals who manufacture coconut, honey and pineapples to showcase and sell their various products.
Our Sophia and Parika ago-packaging facilities continue to provide facilities for farmers and exporters to use to prepare their products for export. Additionally, the refrigerated trucks and refrigerated containers will continue to be made available for farmers to use to maintain the cold chain of products destined for export.
In the area of agro-business development, the Corporation provides business development services advice to agro-processors and other agro-food manufacturers. As a result, agro-processing has evolved. We are now producing as follows in the various administrative regions: cocoa sticks, farine, crabwood oil, cream and soap, cassava bread, preserved fruits, plantain chips, virgin coconut oil, ground provision, ground coffee, chowmein, green seasoning, pepper sauce, assorted achars, fruit jams, assorted vinegar and essence, fried channa and nuts. These are all products that are on sale locally and for foreign export.
In 2014, there are plans to intensify efforts to provide support to the export activities of Guyana’s non-traditional farmers to agro-processors and exporters since it is our intention to expand market information and market linkages and continue efforts in facilitating and coordinating the development of quality non-traditional agricultural products for local and export markets. Moreover, these production increases are being conducted in an environmentally friendly and socially sustainable manner in the face of climate change. We acknowledge that our farm systems and techniques can benefit from modernisation, including the use of biotechnology.
The rehabilitation of the Ebini Breeding and Research Station is a priority.
Training of some 1,247 farmers in Regions 2,3,4,5 and 6 in the areas of calf management, signs of heat in cattle, duck production techniques, broiler management, swine improvement, foot rot management, artificial insemination, piglet management, et cetera, was done.
Some 661 farmers benefitted and 52,557 animals were treated across the riverain and creek areas in our country.
We recognise that food security and safety is important. Guyana has been leading the way in the region with respect to chemicals management. Several outreaches and seminars were held to educate farmers on the use of chemicals. This was a significant aid during the paddy bug outbreak in 2013.
Guyana has done a remarkable job in building and maintaining a comprehensive drainage and irrigation system. There are about 500 kilometres of main irrigation canals and 1,100 kilometres of secondary canals and, similarly, about 500 kilometres of main drainage channels and 1,500 kilometres of secondary drainage channels. There is a network of sluices and pumps to aid drainage and irrigation. These facilities help farmers a lot. To date, the National Drainage & Irrigation Authority (NDIA) has a fleet of 52 excavators, eight dozers, one 22 RB dragline, 10 pontoons, three aluminium boats, five outboard engines, 46 irrigation and drainage pumps and 15 motor vehicles. This is still very much inadequate for the numerous demands that farmers are making of the Ministry.
Further, the Ministry of Agriculture, through its National Drainage and Irrigation Authority, extended infrastructure services in several regions in the following areas:
1. The acceleration of the Conservancy Adaptation Project (CAP) for the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) and extending the adaptation initiatives to the Boerasirie and Tapakuma Conservancies and the irrigation canals of Region 5 and 6;
2. The construction of additional drainage channels, like the ones at Hope/Dochfour and Cottage in Region 4, Canal Polder, the Abary River drainage facade, Black Bush Polder and other associated structures such as sluices and pumps;
3. Completion of Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the Mahaica-Mahaicony-Abary (MMA) re-construction of Cunhia sluices to improve releases into the Demerara River from the East Demerara Water Conservancy;
4. Acquiring of more fixed site and mobile pumps;
5. Improving our equipment such as excavators and bulldozers for NDIA, the MMA and the Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs);
6. Maintenance of approximately 67,643 rods of drainage and irrigation canals within Mahaica, Garden of Eden, Buxton and Cane Grove Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs);
7. Maintenance of drainage and irrigation channels and canals within CDC areas such as Greenfield, Hope, Anns Grove, Two Friends, Belfield, Nabaclis, Golden Grove, Haslington, Triumph, Friendship, Kuru Kuru, Mocha, Belle West, Friendship, Linden area and Lusignan;
8. Maintenance of 250,015 rods of drainage and irrigation channels and canals within Cane Grove, Golden Grove, Victoria, Blankenburg, Den Amstel, Vergenoegen, Naamryck, Lot 52-74, Black Bush Polder, Crabwood Creek, Vreed-en-Hoop, La Jalousie; and
9. Repairs to sluices, culverts, revetment, bridges, et cetera.
These are all works that are ongoing, Mr. Speaker.
The cycle of change in and around the sea coast are ongoing. Siltation continues to be a serious hindrance to the free flow of water through our sea sluices. Therefore, this continues to require extensive maintenance works. As such, projections for 2014 are as follow:
1. Proposal to rehabilitate a total of 300 miles and maintain a total of 1,000 miles of canals and drains in Region 3 at Canal Polder, Den Amstel, Blankenburg, Fellowship, Vergenoegen and Naamryck; in Region 4 at Cane Grove, Mahaica, Haslington, Buxton, Friendship, Triumph, Soesdyke; in Region 6 at Crabwood Creek, Jappa, Black Bush Polder, Nos. 54 and 57 Villages in the Berbice area; in Region 10 at Victory Valley, Christainburg, Noitgedacht, Wisroc, Green Valley and Blue Berry Hill;
2. Maintenance and cleaning of 252, 565 rods of channels with Water Users Association (WUA) areas in Regions 3, 4 and 6;
3. Maintenance and cleaning of 67,643 rods of channels within NDC areas in regions 3, 4 and 6;
4. Maintenance and cleaning of 171,658 rods of channels within Community Development Councils (CDC) groups in Regions 2,3,4,6 and 10;
5. Maintenance of other infrastructures such as sluice gates, timber bridges, access dams, and culverts in all regions; and
6. Maintenance and operation, monitoring and securing of 65 excavators, 53 pumps, draglines, et cetera, and provision of fuel and lubricants for operation of same.
This honourable House would agree with me that there is much need for an increase in financial and material support for this sector. With all I am explaining to this House, I, therefore, ask that support be given to this Budget.
The Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA), with branches at Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara (ECD) and on the Essequibo Coast, is the oldest intuition geared to promote agriculture development through education and training of young men and women. As such, additional sums have been budgeted for 2014 to support the following projects: rehabilitation of layer pens and fish ponds, vacuum packaging, semi-green house, construction of laboratory, small food processing unit, laboratory and composition units.
Residents of Region 2 can now access important services right on the Essequibo Coast as they have benefitted from facilities such as the construction of a death and marriage certificates office, a branch of the Guyana Lands & Surveys Department, a branch of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), a branch of customs department, a judge court, a revenue collection office, office of the Deeds Registry, a diagnostic centre and a branch of the Guyana School of Agriculture and a technical institute.
Other projects worthy of mention are the construction of Rip Rap Sea Defence at Maria’s Lodge, Zorg and Johanna Cecelia and variation works at Hampton Court, Devonshire Castle and Jib-Walton Hall.
The Essequibo Technical Institute continues to play a key role in moulding the youths in various skills such as welding, mechanic, electrical, Computer Science, et cetera. Much was done in terms of assisting young people, not only in Region 2, but in neighbouring regions such as Regions 1, 7, and 3. Four dormitories were set up last year. Extension work was done in Anna Regina to facilitate 100 students. Approximately $5,043,460 is being paid to maintain these students on a monthly basis. On a yearly basis, $55,478,060 is being spent.
At the Aurora Secondary dorm that caters for 56 students, $2,746,067 is spent on a monthly basis and $30,206,737 is being spent on a yearly basis.
At the Charity Secondary School dorm which caters for 54 students, the monthly maintenance cost is $2,317,797 and the yearly cost to maintain these children and keep them under safe and secure conditions is $25,495,767.
Wakapau, which is 16 miles from Charity, now has a secondary school established there. It has a dormitory with 62 students. On a monthly basis, $2,366,100 is being spent to maintain these children. On a yearly basis, it is at a cost of $26,027,100.
These are all investments in young people and we are proud to say that all nine Amerindian communities in those areas... I have heard mention from the other side about not having facility for transportation of children in the riverain areas. The children in the riverain areas are now going to Wakapau Secondary and they are now placed at Charity Secondary. The children from the Bethany and Mashabo areas are going to the Aurora dormitory and the children within the Tapakuma and Capoey area are all going to the Anna Regina Secondary dorm.
The facilities are there. There is no need, like before, for us to have costly transportation and security for these children. These facilities are really and truly helping the hinterland and riverain areas in Region 2 and helping children to intensify their education.
That is why I am saying that today with the conditions in the education system, there are no slow learners or high flyers. The same slow learners can be high flyers. I have experienced this in Region 2 where children with two subjects at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate level are going to the technical institute or the Guyana School of Agriculture branch, doing one year certificate courses, moving on to the two-year diploma courses and some of them are moving from there to the University of Guyana (UG). That is the access we are giving to young people in the Region.
The Region also received additional assistance in agriculture, in health facilities, in education and in infrastructure. Recently, 71 road projects in various communities in the Region were done. Four mini excavators were given to the Region to assist with internal drainage of the communities. Work is ongoing to develop 5,500 acres of agriculture land in the Aurora area.
Further, with the collaboration of the Ministries of Local Government and Regional Development and Public Works, there have been improvements of access roads, construction of farm-to-market roads, dams, bridges, proper drainage and irrigation channels, revetment, head regulators, canals and drains with their associated structures such as sluices, box kokers and pump station, and flood mitigation structures such as empoldering structures are among the infrastructural development works slated for completion in 2014.
I heard the Hon. Member, Mr. Bulkan, mention that the Regional Executive Officer (REO) and the Regional Chairman (RC), with regards to using the different types of vehicles, say that the RC is monopolising the use of the 4x4 pick-up. I just want to say that I had the privilege to travel across... I think I was one of the pioneers who travelled with an all-terrain vehicle from Yupukari, which is the first village from the Kaieteur Falls, right across the Region 9 in Chenoping. It took us five days and five nights. If the Regional Chairman really and truly wants to know the terrain, well he must travel with an all-terrain vehicle. That is more appropriate. Certainly, the 4x4 vehicle can be used jointly by both parties, but I think it is more necessary for them to use it to give additional assistance to people who may be sick and so on. I had the experience during the 1980s of walking 30 to 40 miles from one village to the other. Today, fortunately, all-terrain vehicles and even 4x4 vehicles are travelling across Region 8. I have seen that with my own eyes. I, myself, have done it for five days and five nights.
My dear Friend, Mr. Keith Scott, asked why we are spending more moneys in the rice industry. That is the same problem we have had in terms of not spending much money on the rice industry during the periods of the 1970s and 1980s and it caused us so many problems and economic hardships in our country.
It is the reason why when we took office in 1992 there was US$2.1 billion in debt. It was because moneys were not being spent in the right economic ventures, especially in the areas of agriculture and the rice industry. The East Coast mill was sold during that time. The Wakenaam mill was sold during that time. The West Coast mill was sold out during the 1980s. The mill in Anna Regina was sold out.
Today, we are quarrelling about intake and about people not getting price. We are quarrelling about all kinds of things, but we are not talking about what the problem in the past was which caused us to sell out.
We were producing 600 bags of paddy per crop. Today, we are producing over one million bags of paddy every crop and that is because of the investment we are putting into the rice industry.
I have also heard that we should look about doing more for young people. I have seen in the Budget that money will be spent for many things. In the area of youth development in Region 2 and several other parts I have gone to, the cricket ground today is far better off than what we had in the past.
I spoke to the previous Chairman when I took office in Region 2. He said that he gave me a good wicket to play on. I said, “It is true. The office might appear as the good wicket but if you want to score you have to hit six only. You cannot make strokes for one or two because the outfield was so atrocious.” Today, it is much better than before.
The agriculture sector has already been the vehicle that has propelled Guyana forward and which will play a pivotal role in Guyana being a high middle income country by the year 2020. I wish to conclude, Mr. Speaker, by saying that much was done and we must be honest and we are certain that we should be honest politicians, honest social workers and, if we are really and truly honest to ourselves, moving throughout Guyana...everyone, even people coming in from Suriname, Brazil, Venezuela and North America are telling us that they have never seen while travelling through on the East Coast, on the East Bank, on the Essequibo Coast not only lights, but the amount of new housing communities. Look at the new buildings that are going up. Look at the several banks that are going up. Look at the new infrastructure that is going up. Look at the amount of development that is taking place.
Today’s children are not like the children of my days, several of us are more aged. When we were going to school, it was different. Today’s children are growing up with what is called a middle-class mentality, thanks to this Government because they are having better access to education. They are not the ones who are going to the back dam anymore to cut rice or to bring out paddy from the field. They are the ones who are going to the technical institutes. They are the ones who are going to the multilateral school that we established. Those are the ones who are going to the University of Guyana. Those are the ones who are becoming dentex. Those are the ones who are becoming teachers. Those are the ones who are becoming nurses and so on. They are not like the children of our days when we were having difficult times in getting a sound education.
One should understand the psychology of this Government helping young people. The young people in the sugar belt are not going like their parents did before to cut cane; maybe 10% or 15%. Ninety to 95% of them are going to have a higher education. One can find them in every institution and this Government is giving them that opportunity. The Government is giving the private sector an opportunity to invest to widen the scope for employment of the young people. You must be honest my dear Comrades on both sides; opportunities are there; facilities are there. Every single community... This is not only the condition in Georgetown or in the coastal belt. If one goes into the riverine area, if one goes into the hinterland area, these are the same facilities children are having, young people are having, like others in Georgetown or the city area.
Going through the Pomeroon into the Region 1 area used to take two days, sometimes, to get to Mabaruma from Charity. Today, one can go both ways within eight hours and get back to Charity. One can travel and go to Quebanna. You can come from Quebanna and get to Georgetown, do your business and get back to Quebanna. It should take us from two to three days because of the facility that we have provided.
The secondary school at Mabaruma is taking care of children from Parakis, Waramuri and Imacabra, and these are areas where never in the past children had opportunity to go to a secondary school. The hinterland opportunities are wider today and transportation is much easier today than before.
I wish to say that the health sector in our Region has been transformed tremendously with the assistance with the Cuban doctors. We do not have the same problems that we had in the past where we had to fly every single person to come to Georgetown to have medical treatment. We have surgeons there. We have more doctors there to take care of many kinds of illnesses facing the people in Region 2.
My dear Brothers and Sisters, my dear Comrades all, in this noble House, I wish to ask of us to be conscious Guyanese. We should have the heart to say that we are seeing development. There are problems; there would always be problems. Whichever Government comes into office would face problems. There are difficulties. There would be difficulties, but what I believe in is a collective understanding as to the approach on where we want to go – where we were, where we are and where we are planning to go. I think this Government, through this Budget and previous budgets, has always planned a direction to ensure that Guyana moves forward.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank you very much for giving me, again, this opportunity at this point in time to deliver my little budget speech here this evening. [Applause]
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