23rd June 2006, GEORGETOWN, GUYANA: The domestic market may be too small to support the expansion of the poultry sector, which has grown over four per cent in five years and President Bharrat Jagdeo said the sector would need to seek export markets.
But not wanting to count his chickens before they are hatched, he told a gathering at the opening of the Guyana Veterinary Services Labora-tory yesterday afternoon at the Ministry of Agriculture on Regent Street that there would be need for a "livestock census" to determine the capacity of the industry, which would include knowing the quantities of the livestock within the sector.
This would be a "crucial step forward," President Jagdeo said, noting that Guy-ana has the distinct advantage of being in proximity of the Caribbean and Latin America which show yearly growth of meat imports of 5.1%. Poultry, pork and sheep are among the leading meat imports for the Caribbean and Latin America. Livestock contributes 2.2% of Guyana's total Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The development of the poultry sector was pegged as another drive toward diversification.
Noting too, that an increase in food safety standards means improved health in the population and increased productivity in the work force, the President acknowledged the need to increase governmental services to the sector and to provide support in terms of improved transportation to ensure reliability and to reduce cost.
President Jagdeo also said he hoped that when Guyana began to export its poultry the donor community which has supported the sector would not use non-tariff barriers such as standards requirements.
Also emphasized was the need for greater market intelligence on the intended individual markets, to ensure that local poultry producers would be competitive when they begin to export.
Acting Agriculture Minister Harripersaud Nokta told the small gathering that the "importance of this lab cannot be understated," adding that the ministry is committed to the development of a livestock industry that would meet food production of the highest quality. Nokta said the ministry has spent $1.2M on the laboratory building and infrastructure and is committed to paying the staff and the utilities bills of the laboratory. It is expected that the laboratory will become sustainable in the future.
Veterinarian Dr Steve Surujbally was commended for lobbying for a laboratory to be built in the ministry's compound, which was initially to test for foot and mouth disease in cattle. It was this same facility that was then allocated for the present laboratory by the late agriculture minister Satyadeow Sawh. Sattie Sawh, wife of the late minister unveiled a plaque at the laboratory in his honour.
Patrick de Groot, President of the Guyana Poultry Pro-ducers Association (GPPA) which collaborated with the ministry and the donor community to open the lab said there would be a six-month trial period at the facility before samples are taken from the public for testing. Members of the GPPA would not be charged for testing at the facility, de Groot said, adding that members purchasing from Bounty Farm Ltd, Guyana Stockfeed Ltd, Edun's Poultry and Hatchery and Fung-A-Fatt Hatcheries would not be charged. The GPPA has contributed $2.2M toward the laboratory and the donor community has supplied thousands of US dollars in equipment and supplies.
Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Dr Fenton Sands, who is also Mission Director for the United States Agency for International Develop-ment (USAID), said Guyana has a small export led economy and as such must address issues of standards. Dr Sands said a key focus of the work of USAID would be to provide support to all major testing facilities. He, too, addressed the issue of non-tariff barriers and noted that once Guyana complied with acceptable standards and testing requirements this would not be a problem.
In a history of the facility, it was noted that in early 2003 the GPPA completed phase one of the Canadian Interna-tional Development Agency (CIDA) funded project Caribbean Programme for Economic Competitiveness (CPEC), to improve the local poultry industry. One of the deliverables was the setting up of a small laboratory to test for major poultry diseases.
CPEC subsequently allocated US$27,000 for the purchase of an Elisa Reader, test kits for the list A poultry diseases and various laboratory supplies. Last month the USAID/Guyana Trade Invest-ment Support (GTIS) donated US$40,000 worth of equipment including a microscope, centrifuge, a laboratory refrigerator and freezer, an Elisa reader, colony counter, water bag, incubator and a sterilizer.
Chairing the programme was Dr Dindyal Permaul, Permanent Secretary of the Agriculture Ministry and the vote of thanks was given by the ministry's veterinarian Dr Ariston Lyte.
The laboratory has already tested 900 samples from 12 different farms for Avian Influenza or bird flu, in a check of the facility. The testing was done with the commercial flock, that is edible poultry and eggs and all proved to be free from bird flu; wildlife samples were also slated for testing. Dr de Groot said that if any testing at the lab revealed the presence of bird flu at any time that sample will be sent to the testing facility in the region for confirmation and then further afield for assessment to ascertain whether the bird flu is the deadly H5N1 strain. There are 130 types of bird flu. The departments in the laboratory include Haema-tology, Parasitology and Micro-biology. (Nicosia Smith)