The Guyanese diaspora is very important to their former homeland’s economy. In traveling throughout Guyana, as I did on countless occasion every few months to conduct survey, it is observed that diaspora Guyanese and tourists patronize local markets and stores (plus groceries). They spend enormous amounts of money (on average US$1500 per person) boosting the economy, adding to the GDP. Vendors and shopkeepers are pleased to serve foreigners from who they earn significant revenues. Locals also spend large amounts of money sustaining businesses in the absence of diaspora. Besides being places for purchase of produce and other items, markets are also tourist attractions; foreigners and Guyanese from the diaspora make it their duty to visit the local markets where they expend a large amount of foreign currency on domestic products. People come to eat, to drink, and to be entertained. They spend money on local delicacies and snacks and on our local drinks and even on a full meal (baigan choka, roti, dhal puri, fish, and meats, among other foods). The local farmers also supply domestic foods to hotels and to Exxon and other oil companies operating their production or exploration platforms in the deep blue sea (ocean). Local folks also are important as consumers and purchasers of local produce sustaining vendors since the end of slavery in the 1830s.
The Ministry of Agriculture, through Minister Zulfikar Mustapha and his team, encourage consumption of local produce, meat and fish. Farmers and fisher folks as well as hotels are reaping relatively good income from the expenditures of foreign visitors (from the diaspora and tourists) who enjoy local foods and hospitality. Visiting members of Guyanese families, guests, and tourists love Guyanese cuisine enabling the locals to make money from the agriculture industry. The amount of earnings is sizeable from the fruits and vegetables, rice and other grains, and fish and meat that are sold to foreigners. The diaspora Guyanese also create a huge market for cooked produce and frozen fish; Guyanese meat is not allowed in North America. A relatively new nascent cottage industry has sprung up over the last decade — preparation of vegetables and fish that are frozen and send abroad. Saijan bhajjie, gilbaka, kakabelly, bangamarie, houri, patwa, jumper shrimps, and other fish produce are prepared for export. Frozen and or cooked fish and cooked vegetables (saijan, coconut choka, pepper sauce, kuchela, fleg achar, etc) are taken in luggage to North America and UK and to Caribbean destinations boosting local production and small cottage industries that prepare cooked foods for visiting Guyanese for overseas travel.
Farmers are encouraged by Minister and the Ministry of Agriculture to produce a wide range of food crops, fruits, and vegetables, meat, and fish to meet growing demands of an increased number of visitors. And fishermen have been making a good catch over the last couple of months; price of fish, apart from gilbaka, have gone down. Gilbaka is a prized fish that is in demand by the diaspora. Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (and Forestry) have been encouraging and providing assistance to help farmers especially small and medium farmers. Farmers appreciate the assistance as they revealed to me.