Tak­ing agro pro­cess­ing for­ward: The GMSA’s pro­posal

Stabroek News - - NEWS -

There ap­pears to be a real sense of en­thu­si­asm amongst the lead­ers of the Guyana Man­u­fac­tur­ing & Ser­vices As­so­ci­a­tion (GMSA) whom this news­pa­per met with earlier this week to dis­cuss is­sues af­fect­ing the growth and de­vel­op­ment of the sec­tor. Much of the dis­cus­sion was cen­tred around the start of what, it has been agreed, will be a se­ries of In­ter-Min­is­te­rial Round Ta­bles in­volv­ing the Gov­ern­ment of Guyana and the GMSA and as far as this news­pa­per could tell there ap­pears to be a de­ter­mi­na­tion on the part of the GMSA that, go­ing for­ward, the engagements will serve as a cat­a­lyst for en­hanc­ing what is not al­ways a par­tic­u­larly con­vivial re­la­tion­ship.

We found that it was very much the view of Messrs. Shyam Nokta, Pres­i­dent; Ramsey Ali, Vice Pres­i­dent; and Clem Dun­can, Head of the Trade & In­vest­ment Sub Com­mit­tee that the new fo­rum should tran­scend what, frankly, has been, in large mea­sure, a se­ries of ‘talk shops’ which, over the years, have not yielded nearly enough in terms of mean­ing­ful out­comes. We found that the three pri­vate sec­tor lead­ers were per­fectly pre­pared to con­cede that pub­lic/pri­vate sec­tor dis­courses are of­ten clut­tered. They wanted, they said, to be part of an agenda, at the In­ter-Min­is­te­rial Round Ta­ble, that would be in­formed by an agenda con­cerned di­rectly with the de­vel­op­ment of the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor.

We have been given clear­ance by the GMSA of­fi­cials to dis­close that at the next Round Ta­ble, the as­sem­bled gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials can an­tic­i­pate a pro­posal for the es­tab­lish­ment of a pub­lic/pri­vate sec­tor part­ner­ship to en­able the set­ting up “within the next two to three years” of an agro-pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity that can con­vert raw ma­te­rial – fruit, veg­eta­bles el al – into “pro­cessed food for ex­port.” As ar­tic­u­lated by Mr. Ali the fa­cil­ity must be struc­tured to en­able mod­u­lar ex­pan­sion. He en­vis­ages that such a project can en­able a rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion in the con­di­tion of the agro-pro­cess­ing sec­tor over a rel­a­tively short pe­riod.

There may well be a lot go­ing for such a pro­posal in cir­cum­stances where it would add value to the raw ma­te­ri­als (par­tic­u­larly fruit and veg­eta­bles) grown here abun­dantly and ei­ther sold or ex­ported in their orig­i­nal state. If this news­pa­per has done as much (if not more) than the other me­dia houses in pro­mot­ing the role of the Guyana Mar­ket­ing Cor­po­ra­tion’s Guyana Shop in push­ing our agro-pro­duce on the lo­cal – and to a lesser ex­tent - over­seas mar­ket, the fact of the mat­ter is that for all of the hype and hoopla our agro-pro­duce has been largely un­able, pri­mar­ily be­cause of our lim­ited abil­ity to add value, to ef­fec­tively scale the bar­ri­ers to suc­cess­ful ac­cess to for­eign mar­kets.

Set­ting aside the fact that the idea of a pub­lic/pri­vate sec­tor ini­tia­tive to set up an agro-pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity here could prove de­cid­edly trans­for­ma­tional if it can be man­aged, the point should be made that a project of that type could at­tract far less coun­ter­pro­duc­tive chat­ter (at least we hope so) than, for ex­am­ple, re­duc­ing taxes on raw ma­te­rial im­ports for the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor though this is not to say that is­sues per­tain­ing to tax­ing im­ports con­nected with the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor is unim­por­tant.

In­ter­est­ingly, the GMSA of­fi­cials with whom this news­pa­per met earlier this week did make the point that agro-pro­duce from coun­tries in our hemi­sphere – they named Gu­atemala, Chile and Belize, among oth­ers – are able to en­joy far greater ac­cess to the North Amer­i­can mar­ket pre­cisely be­cause they are equipped with the tech­nol­ogy to en­hance the qual­ity of our own agro-pro­duce. In other words, there is re­ally no im­pos­ing rea­son why we can­not have such a fa­cil­ity here.

What this news­pa­per found in­ter­est­ing about its dis­course with the pri­vate sec­tor of­fi­cials was what ap­peared to be a con­vic­tion that the In­terMin­is­te­rial Round Ta­ble can ac­tu­ally tran­scend the pre­vi­ous pub­lic/pri­vate sec­tor ex­changes that ei­ther never got be­yond the ‘talk shop’ stage or else, be­came so clut­tered by pol­i­tics that the de­sired out­comes sim­ply never saw the light of day.

En­hanc­ing the ca­pac­ity of the agro-pro­cess­ing sec­tor to raise its game, earn more for our agro- pro­ces­sors and com­pete with ri­val prod­ucts both on our own home mar­ket, in the re­gion and fur­ther afield would be a ma­jor gain for Guyana from ex­changes be­tween gov­ern­ment and the GMSA that seek to trans­form what, up un­til now has been an en­vi­ron­ment that has been, in many re­spects, less than en­abling.

The GMSA’s agro-pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity pro­posal could al­ter the cli­mate and take the re­la­tion­ship for­ward. We strongly be­lieve that the gov­ern­ment should lis­ten with a view to tak­ing the idea se­ri­ously.

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