Non-Traditional Agricultural Exports
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 agriculture include:
- 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.
AMCAR: Collaborating with Local Communities to Succeed in the Global Organic Market. Known for its exports of organic heart of palms and pineapples, Amazon Caribbean Ltd. (AMCAR) shows how the utilization of Guyana’s unspoiled, certifiable organic land and indigenous farming communities can enable companies to take advantage of high-value niche markets abroad.
While the company initially produced hearts of palms for the Guyanese and Venezuelan markets, the company realized that it could capture higher prices for its products if they were sold as indigenous organic products in markets further abroad. Although AMCAR’s hearts of palms had always been both organic and indigenous, they were never marketed as such. AMCAR shifted its marketing efforts towards France and OECD markets where indigenous organic products enjoy premium market prices. AMCAR quickly acquired organic certification from ECOCERT (a German certifier) for heart of palms and entered the European market, not only for heart of palm, but also a variety of other indigenous organically grown crops, including pineapple.
In addition to certification and marketing organic products, AMCAR took another step to ensure success: ensuring that the Amerindian suppliers of its produce would not engage in non-organic farming practices. This was achieved by moving towards the use of sustainable plantations owned and operated by Amerindians trained in organic farming. Through a partnership with UNDP and Government of Guyana, AMCAR trained 500 Amerindians in farming skills, particularly in organic production. Through the training and production via organized plantations, AMCAR was able to secure its supply chain, while at the same time providing secure income earning opportunities for Amerindian communities.