Agriculture: More rhetoric – Stabroek News

At the risk of sounding like a stuck record we consider it necessary to point out what we believe to be the enduring tendency on the part of the Ministry of Agriculture to often ‘talk up’ the responsibilities of its portfolio without paying due attention to the actualisation of its undertakings, that is to say, seemingly being oblivious to the fact that – as we say in Guyana, ‘the noise in the market is not the sale’.

 It is not, one might add, anything new. It is as if agriculture has come to be what one might call the ‘picked on’ portfolio platform for the utterance of undertakings to which, in some instances, no clear commitment to realisation is attached. And since Guyanese have evolved into arch cynics (they have become particularly well-schooled in recognising what one might describe as ‘waffle’ when it emerges), our own view is that the Ministry might want to give serious consideration to adjusting its public information/public relations modus operandi.

Two points should be made at this juncture. The first has to do with what is being mooted across the region as the urgent need for the Caribbean to get its act together insofar as the various decidedly empty noises about our food security are concerned. The simple fact is that there is at this time, not an iota of evidence of a collective regional awareness of the importance of food security. The second point has to do with the now ceaseless gyaff about our alleged US$5 billion-plus food import bill against the backdrop of us continuing to do ‘zilch’ to respond to this scandalous state of affairs.

 In the particular instance of Guyana, there is a third point to be made. It has to do with what now appears to have been the bursting of the happy-ever-after bubble in relation to just how long our oil & gas largesse will last, given what is emerging as the increasing intervention of climate change. The political administration – and specifically Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo – appears to have accepted that reality, never mind the fact that there appears to be a determined effort not to allow that consideration to spoil the immediate-term oil & gas ‘party.’ That said, the authorities here are now on record as saying that in the longer term, and in the context of the environmental considerations, it is agriculture not oil and gas, that really points the way forward.

Stabroek Business has noted on quite a few occasions, what we believe to have been the indifference of the Ministry of Agriculture to properly lead the way in ‘celebrating’ the various regional and international events associated with agriculture and food security. We made that point earlier in the year when it issued a media release with regard to the UN-designated International Year of Fruits and Vegetables but did nothing meaningful, as far as we can recall, to do justice to its own undertakings. All told, since the beginning of 2021 the Stabroek Business has published eight separate editorials on the theme of what we consider to be both domestic and regional delinquency in the matter of the local and regional posture, including the endless, and frankly, decidedly provoking lip service to the agriculture sector.

One would have thought for example, that some of the recent agriculture-related local, regional and international events that have occurred in recent months might have been used to provide some measure of emotional ‘oomph’ for farmers across the country some of whom were clearly devastated by their losses, the extent of which, in some instances, could not have been compensated for even by the material gestures made by government. This is a point that political administrations seem, all too often, to overlook. 

At the beginning of October – Agriculture Month – we were greeted with another round of high-sounding official commitments from the subject ministry on what can/should be expected of the sector, going forward. The one that sticks out like the proverbial ‘sore thumb’ is the commitment to help the region “reduce its food import bill by 25% by 2025. Like so much that has gone before, that commitment is not accompanied by any road map for the achievement of this goal, nor, we believe, is one ever likely to materialise.

 It is not a matter, one might add, of simply taking government – across political administrations – to task on the dichotomy between their self-serving commitments to taking the agriculture sector forward and the actualisation of those commitments. It is simply a matter of perusing their track record.

As for the official commitment to helping the rest of the Caribbean “reduce its food import bill by 25% by 2025,” perhaps the most appropriate response that can be proffered is that, as it happens, 2025 is not that far away.   

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