With the oil and gas industry paving the way for Guyana’s development, Business Minister Dominic Gaskin has reiterated the importance of other sectors in the country’s economy, primarily the agricultural and agro-processing sectors.This announcement was made at the launch of Marketplace Uncapped, an exhibition aimed at promoting the products of local manufacturers in Guyana.During his address, Minister Gaskin stressed on the significance of understanding how greatly the agricultural sector affected the country and the opportunities that were possible from Guyana’s growing agro-processing industry.“It’s important to note that our government sees the agricultural and agro-processing sector as priority sectors, because we too understand that long after the oil has been extracted and there’s no more left, we still need to eat and feed others,” he stated.Some of the locally-manufactured productsCurrently, the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) is working with small-scale manufacturers to highlight their businesses. While the use of quality ingredients is a requirement, packaging also plays an important role in gaining the customers’ attention. As such, Gaskin encouraged local producers to have their items featured at exhibitions to improve in these areas.The Minister revealed, “Our job is not to criticise those whose packaging is not that attractive, but to help them appreciate the need to not only compete on the basis of your ingredients, but on how well you package and how attractive your product is – when it is lined up on the supermarket shelf next to imported products and other products.”“We’re also trying to help smaller producers who don’t yet understand the benefit of packaging, ensuring that their goods are properly packaged and labelled,” he said.While adding that employment was created for farmers by small business ventures, Gaskin also emphasised the fact that Guyana’s import bill has been reduced, stating: “All these things are good for farmers, because we know that we import these foods. Every year, there is a high import bill that we have to face and if we can produce them locally and process them locally and make them available for local consumption, then we’re ahead of the game.”During his remarks, Minister Gaskin also touched on the fact that Guyana no longer exported catfish to the United States of America (USA). This is in light of the non-compliance with the United States Food Safety Modernisation Act, which he thinks should be fulfilled urgently. The Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) is collaborating with the University of Hawaii on educational programmes, which will assist with compliance on these requirements.“It doesn’t help us to sit down and attributing blame to each other. What we need to figure out: what needs to be done, what are the requirements, how can we help each other to achieve these requirements,” he stated.Presently, the Agriculture Ministry has embarked on a sustainable agricultural plan, which is financed through a US$15 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank and is expected to impact the agricultural sector in a tremendous way. Spices such as turmeric and black pepper are also being cultivated in various areas in Region One (Barima-Waini). Additionally, the Business Ministry is working on two incubators, in Berbice and Lethem, which will assist small operators.While these are all systems that were put in place to diversify and develop the country’s agro-processing industry, the Business Minister, in his final comments, highlighted that for the sector to emerge victorious, consumers must patronise these businesses and buy the products, which are no less of good quality than imported products.