Agriculture & Agro-processing
Guyana’s vast tracts of productive land present
enormous opportunities for growth. Indeed, agriculture already represents
a significant proportion of Guyana’s domestic production (approximately
25 percent of GDP) and agriculture exports amounted to over a third
of Guyana’s total exports in 2004. While about 90 percent of
Guyana’s 2005 agriculture exports consisted of rice or sugar
products, the value and share of processed goods and fresh fruit and
vegetable exports have experienced a positive growth trend in recent
years. This is a result of efforts by the Government and the private
sector to diversify Guyana’s agricultural sector. With the right
investments, Guyana could easily become the ‘breadbasket of
the Caribbean’ while at the same time increasing exports to
markets in North America and Europe.
Traditional Agriculture Products
Recent changes in the global trading environment, such as the reduction
of guaranteed prices for rice and sugar in the E.U., have placed pressure
on Guyana’s traditional agricultural exports. Nevertheless,
investments in productivity and efforts to shift exports towards non-E.U.
markets can help ensure that rice and sugar remain mainstays of Guyana’s
economy for some time into the future.
Sugar accounts for nearly 12 percent of GDP and over 20 percent of
Guyana’s exports (2005). Most sugar exports are destined for
the E.U. under a preferential trade agreement. The CARICOM region,
which is protected by the common external tariff (CET), is also an
important market for Guyanese sugar. Sugar is produced by the state-owned
Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco).
In 2005, production amounted to nearly 259,000 metric tons. While
cuts in the E.U.’s guaranteed prices will have an impact on
the industry, a modernization program with significant investment
by Guysuco (see Box 2.3) will help maintain the profitability of the
sector by raising annual production to 450,000 metric tons.
Although the sector is mature, opportunities still
exist in processing the raw product into crystallized sugar, as well
as the brown sugar market, which Guysuco reports to be under-served
throughout the CARICOM region. Opportunities also exist for the by-products
of sugar-based products, such as ethanol.
Rice accounted for nearly 9 percent of Guyana’s exports in 2005.
Like sugar, Guyana exports rice primarily to Europe and the CARICOM
region. According to the Guyana Rice Development Board, this trade
pattern is starting to shift following the E.U.’s reduction
in the guaranteed price for Guyanese rice. However, Guyana could further
expand its market share in the Caribbean; currently it holds 50 percent
of the Jamaican rice market. Furthermore, Brazil is emerging as an
important export destination, as the Brazil-Guyana Partial Scope Agreement
established a quota for duty-free importation of Guyanese rice. While
sufficient Brazilian demand exists, this quota has yet to be met due
to a lack of supply.
Opportunities exist to improve productivity by upgrading
milling facilities for export so they can manufacture value-added
rice products, such as breakfast cereal and quick cooking rice.
Although Guyana’s mature sugar and rice industries will continue
to play an important role in Guyana’s economy, the non-traditional
agriculture sector is beginning to show high growth potential. For
example, agro-processing exports (excluding rum) experienced an average
growth of nearly 9 percent since 2000, jumping over 20 percent in
2005. With investments in production, facilities, quality assurance
and processing, non-traditional agriculture could become an engine
of export growth.
Guyana’s comparative advantages in diversified
Diverse Agricultural Environments
– Guyana is endowed with an abundance of diverse agricultural
environments, which include: 1) highly fertile soils in the coastal
areas—currently used extensively for rice and sugarcane production—with
large parcels of flat irrigated land that can be used for fresh fruits
and vegetables, dairy and beef production (Guyana has been certified
as foot-and-mouth free); and 2) intermediate savannahs with untapped
opportunities to produce beef, milk, mutton, citrus, corn, cashew
nuts, legumes, peanuts, soybeans, dairy products, and orchard crops.
The savannahs have large tracts of brown soils that are well drained
and responsive to fertilization, creating an ideal environment for
the application of high technology and the establishment of medium/large
scale agriculture operations.
Organic cropland – Guyana has large expanses
of land that have never been used for modern agriculture and remain
totally free of agricultural chemicals. These lands could be certified
for organic production within one year, as opposed to the traditional
three-year certification process.
Irrigation – Nearly 30 percent of Guyana’s
cropland is currently irrigated.
Agricultural Population – Whereas the populations
of most Caribbean countries have become urbanized, over 50 percent
of Guyana’s population remains rural and closely linked to agriculture.
Trainable Farmers – Guyana’s farmers
are eager to learn new methods and practices, such that technology
transfer occurs quickly when the appropriate systems are put in place,
resulting in an immediate impact on productivity and quality.
Markets – Guyana’s proximity to the CARICOM
and North American markets enables exporters to supply consumers with
fresh produce as well as meet the demands of a growing food processing
industry in the region. Many products receive duty-free or reduced
duty access to regional markets.
Key opportunities in the non-traditional agriculture
export sector include:
Fresh Fruits – International
demand for fresh fruit is growing. Market potential exists for citrus
fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, and limes, as well
as exotic fruits such as mangoes, sapodillas, papayas, pineapples,
and passion fruit. However, exporters must be able to establish modern
post-harvest handling and quality systems to prevent spoilage in transit,
and must meet international phytosanitary controls. Additional value
can be achieved by shipping selected fruits to destination markets
by air, thereby ensuring maximum freshness. In addition to exportation,
opportunities exist for fruit farmers to supply the tourism industry
as well as the expanding agro-processing industry in Guyana and the
Fresh Vegetables – Export opportunities exist
for a range of vegetables such as cucumber, pumpkins, watermelon,
melon, saeme, bora, and callalloo within the Caribbean and North American
markets. However, Guyana's ability to supply international markets
is currently hampered by the time required to transport its products
to market. An increase in airlift capacity would create enormous export
opportunities for this sector. In addition to fresh produce, current
opportunities exist to supply Guyanese or Caribbean food processors
with raw inputs.
Plantains, Roots and Tubers – There is potential
to increase Guyana’s exports of selected plantain, roots and
tubers to ethnic markets in the Caribbean, North America and Europe.
Opportunities also exist for malanga, breadfruit and ground provisions
as raw inputs in the snack food industry.
Organic Products – As noted above, Guyana has
large tracts of land free of agricultural chemicals, providing a unique
opportunity to meet a growing demand for organic products in North
America and Europe. In most cases, organic products receive a premium
price compared to their conventional counterparts. Organic cocoa,
pineapple and heart of palm are already being grown for export (See
Box 2.4). Organic products could also find a welcome market within
Guyana and throughout the Caribbean among hotels and restaurants that
serve discriminating tourists.
Herbs and Spices – There is growing demand
in the Caribbean, North America and Europe for hot peppers, eschallots,
celery and other ingredients for seasoning, all of which grow abundantly
in various parts of Guyana.
Livestock and Dairy Products – There are excellent
investment opportunities for the production of meat (beef and mutton),
poultry products, milk and milk products for both domestic consumption
and export to the Caribbean. In particular, Guyana’s savannahs
provide a favorable environment for medium to large-scale cattle raising.
Guyana has been certified as foot-and-mouth free, providing it with
favorable access to many markets.
Processed Foods – Opportunities exist for processing,
or semi-processing, produce and animal products. Already, Guyana’s
exotic and gourmet food products are in demand in Caribbean, North
American and European markets. Products with a large growth potential
include jams, jellies, sauces, processed spices and fruit puree blends.
Agricultural Support Services – Since the non-traditional
agricultural sector is still emerging, there is an ongoing need for
investment in inputs, machinery, and support services. In particular,
there are opportunities for air cargo service providers to expand
flights for agricultural exports, as well as for investments in cold
storage facilities, post-harvest handling, and packaging services.
There are a number of government and private organizations
involved in the agricultural products sector. The two principal government
agencies responsible for promoting agricultural development in Guyana
are the Crops and Livestock Division of the Ministry of Fisheries, Crops & Livestock (MFCL) and the Ministry
of Agriculture(MOA). The MOA coordinates the activities of several
departments and semi-autonomous bodies related to the major export
crops (e.g. sugar and rice). The MFCL is responsible for the provision
of extension services for the production of crops and livestock as
well as agricultural health activities for plants and animals.
New Guyana Marketing
Corporation (New GMC) is a government agency charged with promoting
the development and exportation of non-traditional agricultural commodities.
(See Box 2.5)
The National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI),
which is a part of the MOA, produces research designed to generate
the technologies and systems required to maintain national self-sufficiency
and export capacity. NARI is also involved in the development of the
The Guyana Agri-Business Association (GABA) is a
private association whose mission is to increase the level of technological
input in agriculture and agro-processing to create a culture of best
practices in local research, and to develop policies for the national
The Guyana Manufacturers and Services Association
(GMSA), represents agro-processing and other non-traditional agriculture
companies (see details under manufacturing sector below).