ith mineral resources, such as, bauxite, oil and gold, agriculture, fishing and logging contributes a relatively small share of gross domestic product, averaging 5-7% annually. Much of this contribution comes from rice and banana production, shrimp and fish exports amounting to about US$ 40-50 million per year (10-12% of total export earnings) and lumber amounting to about 1% of export earnings.

Against the background of the 6.4 million ha of total land in Suriname, with 1.5 million ha considered to have potential as agricultural land, only a very small percentage of the population is engaged in agriculture, estimated at 15% of the labour force. Rice accounts for about half of all cultivated lands and is a major export to CARICOM (duty-free) and the EU (Cotonou agreement). However, with the pending termination of Cotonou agreement in 2007, continued low productivity, high input costs, and a growing debt-service burden will place significant pressure on the industry’s survival capacity and threaten the livelihoods of a large number of small producers, agricultural workers and their dependent communities.

In spite of its challenges, agriculture remains critical to national socio-economic development. A five–year Medium Term Plan targets the agricultural sector as one of prime importance, as reflected in the Agricultural Support Programmed (ASP). The priority areas for investments in the ASP include water and other infrastructure rehabilitation and management, development of credit facilities to support private sector investments in processing and agro-industry, investments to expand production, raise productivity levels, and enhance health and safety standards in the sector. It is envisaged that the free movements of goods and services and the open sky policy will provide considerable prospects to further develop the fruit, vegetable and ornamental and flower production for export.

These national agricultural development policies are in sync with the objectives of the Jagdeo Initiative for repositioning the region’s agriculture and rural sectors and as well the hemispheric Agro Plan 2015 for improving agriculture and rural life in the Americas. The convergence of the priorities and objectives of the national to regional and hemispheric ones will complement government’s efforts at alleviating poverty, which is most evident in rural districts and the interior where ethnic minorities (Maroons, Amerindians) live in tribal communities and where agricultural activities are the main responsibility of women. These efforts will also contribute to hunger reduction and food security, and in more effectively managing the food import bill, of mainly wheat and flour, fats and oils, animal products and sugar, estimated at US$50 million per year.

1  Extracted from the National Medium Term Priority Framework for FAO Assistance – Suriname Draft document, 2006

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