It was an extraordinary event. I was most pleased and delighted to attend and observe, as a Guyanese diaspora reporter as well as a participant, the Agri conference and expo organized by the Government through the Ministry of Agriculture headed by Zulfikar Mustapha from May 19 to 21. I salute the government for holding the event and I thank those who sent me an invitation, albeit to attend at my own expense not to mention to promote and write about it without compensation— all for Guyana and our farmers who toil under difficulties to feed our nation as well as to export and generate foreign currency. The presence of the international delegates and foreign leaders like Dr Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Gaston Browne of Antigua as well as the public attendance is the testimony to its success. commend President Ali, Vice President Jagdeo, and Minister Zulfikar Mustapha and the latter’s Ministry for recognizing the need for such a platform to educate, innovate and encourage the farmers of Guyana and the Caribbean region to participate in the conference and to motivate local and international investors and entrepreneurs for attending this conference and expo. Guyana is endowed with large tracts of fertile soil, a lot of sunshine and water and hard-working farmers — all qualities needed to produce to feed a nation and export — to be the breadbasket of the region and to supply favourite products to the diaspora. This platform to showcase Guyana agriculture to the world is a very good start.
The conference and expo were attended by heads of government of Caricom and or their substitute and hundreds of delegates from several countries. Many individuals from the diaspora like Jagjeet and Chandrowti Persaud of the USA and Dr Bhaskar Sharma of Canada attended. It also attracted agri-entrepreneurs and investors within Guyana and around the region as well as the diaspora. This is the first such Agri conference not only in Guyana but in the Anglophone Caribbean. The heads of government praised the organizing as well as the exhibits (expo) and the level of discussion; all of them indicated they would like to replicate such a conference in their territory.
It was indeed quite impressively organized and worthy of praises. I attended dozens of conferences including Agro conferences and exhibitions in India and China; our government did a splendid job; kudos go to the President, Ministry, Minister, planners and all those involved in conceiving and executing the project. Even around interacting with people over those three days, there were only praises; even critics and political opponents agreed that it was an excellent conference and expo. As someone who organized many seminars and conferences and as someone who studied Bio-Chemistry ( that has relevance to the Agri industry), economics (agriculture in development, marketing and trade), and political science, I have a few critiques and suggestions which I will pen separately.
Thousands visited this event and undoubtedly gained knowledge from the exhibition and various presentations and workshops and the display of modern equipment as well as technology for use in agri production. Many shopped for varied items that were on display and or for sale. Many samples were given away. Healthy juice and snacks as well as other food items and drinks were sold and or given away. Booths had brochures about their products and or their company.
It was a matter of great satisfaction to me that the conference and expo and the items on display showcased and educated the farmers and consumers about improvement in Agri production as well as healthy eating. The presentations and workshops on diverse areas of agriculture are most helpful to the farming sector. Among the best, if not the best presentation, was that of Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo. He captured the audience. He was short and to the point enumerating the issues and proposing solutions to help small farmers. He committed to taking measures to help small farmers to produce and market their products. I commend the VP for focusing on the small farmers who are really the backbone of the economy and who perform backbreaking work. They are not always appreciated. Jagdeo’s presentation will strengthen the confidence of the small farmers to produce.
I firmly believe that unless we create a value chain involving and give support to the cultivator or producer all the way to the harvester and to the consumer through reliable markets, the profitability of farming will not improve. Farmers will suffer losses or barely make ends.
In the last several years, there has been an agrarian crisis with local farmers losing a lot of money. The previous government neglected agriculture. It was revived under the new PPP administration in August 2020 but the flood of April/May 2021 took the wind out of the sails of the government. Agriculture improvement is on track again because of the focus of the government to revive food production and the shortage of food globally. The conference is timely and we need to produce more.
I was most impressed with the conference and expo. A platform like this will play a major role in transforming the current agricultural situation. Follow-ups are needed for the implementation of ideas. The President, VP, and Minister of Agriculture must ensure that scientific and financial ideas are carried to conclusions to boost production and export.
By Dr Vishnu Bisram