Nothing that the AFC and its leaders say could ever be taken seriously and never could anyone believe them. They were very clear – they will never join any coalition with APNU, but if APNU wanted APNU could dissolve itself under the leadership of the AFC. When confronted earlier because the secret meetings were not so secret after all, they were adamant that they would never join a coalition with the PNC or its alter-ego, APNU. They claimed that they could win an election by themselves and that they are not a small party. They claimed that the PNC and other parties must join them, but they are not interested in joining anyone.
Ramjattan proclaimed mightily that only the AFC can lead any coalition. They sent out their accolades in Regions 5 and 6 where their supporters were loud in rejecting the idea. Their newest member – Professor Samad indeed could not be clearer in denying there was any talk about a coalition, saying that he and others would never allow the AFC to enter into a coalition with the PNC-led APNU. It was not only Professor Samad, other leaders of the AFC were careful to let everyone know that it was not in the interest of the AFC or Guyana for the AFC to become a part of APNU. The secret discussions were about seeing who, groups or individuals, might want to join the AFC.
Now the truth is out of the bag – AFC has dissolved itself into APNU, under the leadership of the PNC and of the Leader of the PNC, David Granger. Now they sing David Granger’s praise. Nagamootoo is proud to say that he went to the same school as Granger. But there was a time when the mighty voice and pen of Nagamootoo denounced the army in which Granger was a leader for helping to rig elections and for terrorizing the Guyanese population. Today a person that both Ramjattan and Nagamootoo used to be fearful of is their hero.
I have always had a respectful relationship with Professor Samad. He has treated me with respect and I have treated him with respect. It is under such circumstances that I ask Professor Samad to be truthful. Is he denying that he said there was no intention of AFC to join with the PNC in a coalition? He said so and people in Regions 5 and 6 believed him. What has Professor Samad to say now? I challenge Professor Samad to show people he is driven by integrity – let him go on television and say that he never said that the AFC will not join in a coalition.
Maybe Professor Samad was lied to and misled by his new leaders, those that promised him much. But Professor Samad in order to maintain his integrity need to admit that he was misled by Ramjattan and Nagamootoo. Poor Professor Samad now is learning that he is but a pawn of these deceitful leaders. He should not feel too bad because others said the same thing.
I challenge Professor Samad, a very intelligent man, to tell me that Ramjattan did not himself said the same thing – that the AFC will not form a coalition with APNU unless APNU wanted to come under the leadership of the AFC. We must be upfront with our people. When I listened to Professor Samad and other AFC leaders that they would never join in a coalition with APNU, under the leadership of a PNC leader I believed them. I am disappointed, just like the AFC supporters around Guyana. The AFC dissolved itself into the PNC under the leadership of Granger. That is the plain truth and very different from the story they told not so long ago, repeatedly around the nation, but almost daily in Regions 5 and 6.
I am not disappointed because I believed that they have improved their chances to win an election – but that they lied so easily and effortlessly. Mr. Nagamootoo in 2011 wanted to be Speaker, The AFC abandoned him and proposed Trotman. Now he wanted to be the Presidential candidate of the AFC. But they made him the runner-up. Nothing these people say suggests they can ever be trusted. They have moved from no chance to win an election to now becoming relics of the past – totally rejected by the people.
They voted with the PNC-led APNU almost 100% of the time in Parliament. In 2011, they concentrated almost exclusively in PPP strongholds and allowed APNU to stay unchallenged in their strongholds. Now everyone knows the truth – APNU and the AFC had a deal and developed a strategy for the AFC to focus their attention in the PPP strongholds. Now in APNU’s 2015 campaign they intend to use AFC leaders to represent APNU in the PPP stronghold.
Why such blatant lies to innocent people? Quite simply, it is because of the lure of power. Nagamootoo said to the PPP/C – President or nothing. Poor Ramjattan, he now has to deal with Nagamootoo’s ambition and hunger for power. Nagamootoo has no interest in Guyana and its people – he is just so engrossed in himself that he would betray anyone in order to get his hands on power. He is not driven to make Guyana better; he is driven by his lust for power and his lust for vengeance. The truth is had the AFC not agreed to the coalition, Nagamootoo would have made his own deal.
Anyone wonders why Nagamootoo and Ramjattan have been quiet throughout the Rodney COI? They used to be at one time loud in condemning the PNC for the assassination of Rodney and others. Now they have joined those with blood on their hands. As they bow to their new leader, would they ask him to go to the Rodney COI and tell them what he knows about the brutal murder of Walter Rodney? This is what happens with power-hungry people – they conveniently forget each other’s misdeeds.
Now the people who voted for them because they could never support the PNC know that they were deceived in 2011. They were always part of the PNC and they can no longer hide their stripes. They had to end up at home and home they are now. The sad truth is that they expected to take many others with them, through sinister and deceitful strategies. They are hopeful that they could fool the people that they did not sell out. But they not only sold out, they baptized themselves as loyal and faithful PNC accolades. The truth sets people free – the people the AFC deceived into supporting them have been liberated by the truth. The AFC, Nagamootoo and Ramjattan have become prisoners of their own deceit.
Dr. Leslie Ramsammy
February 17, 2015
Agriculture Ministry launches two more rice varieties
In an effort to boost rice yields, thereby increasing its production in Guyana, the Ministry of Agriculture, in collaboration with the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), launched two new rice varieties: the GRDB 14; and the Maria’s Delight Aromatic. the event was held under the theme, “Enhancing Productivity through Research and Technology Transfer.”
When compared with GRDB 9 and 10, the GRDB 14 is a better option, in terms of production, since it generates high yields (as good as those of the GRDB 10. The aromatic rice is also high yielding, and has a robust plant type.
A semi commercial trial was done on a five-acre plot, to compare the GRDB 10 with the aromatic and the GRDB 14, and it was observed that the yields are very similar. Demonstration trial plots commenced in 2011 countrywide.
The two rice brands were developed locally, at the Burma Rice Research Station, Region Five.
Speaking at the launch today, at the Guyana International Conference Centre (GICC), Minister within the Ministry of Agriculture, Alli Baksh, highlighted the significance of this new development, noting that agriculture is the backbone of Guyana’s economy.
He said that while the revitalisation of this industry came with the return to government of People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C), the farmers had a very significant role to play, and they (the farmers) must recognise the benefits that are derived from this critical industry. “Today, rice farmers’ children are going overseas, on scholarships and studying and returning to contribute to the sector,” Baksh noted.
The Guyana Rice Development Board’s, GRDB14
Baksh also highlighted that while production is at its best, the question of storage poses a challenge, and he urged the farmers to add value to this commodity, and not just stick to the traditional way.
Under the management of the GRDB, which is responsible for the management of the rice industry, four high-yielding rice varieties had been introduced over the past three years, namely, GRDB 9, 10, 11 and 12.
Dr. Mahindra Persaud, Chief Scientist, explained that about 20 trials were conducted to ensure that the GRDB 14 was better than the GRDB 10, which was the most productive yield thus far. It was concluded that the GRDB 14 has great potential, “as it has an excellent early vigour, and emerges well in four to six inches of water, high yielding (beyond 200 grains), tolerant to lodging, excellent plant type, and resistant to blast disease and good cooking quality.”
Farmers gathered at the launch of the Ministry of Agriculture’s new rice variety at the Guyana International Conference Centre (GICC)
He also said that the new variety was also used in several farmers’ plots, and touched as far as eight tons per hectares.
Persaud highlighted that while these new varieties are of good quality, there is much more to be done. He assured the farmers, that in a few years, the ministry will develop more new varieties, which will take them to a minimum nine tonnes per hectare.
As it relates to the Aromatic Rice, he said that this grain has been a very important objective in the rice industry, and is very crucial in terms of market. Persaud further explained that due to the demand and the high price of this produce worldwide, many programmes have been tried, by countries such as India and Pakistan, to develop the aromatic rice.
Farmers examining the Aromatic rice
This aromatic variety is very difficult to breed, because one has to track the right set of genes, and have a good screening programme, since the aroma itself is influenced highly by the environment. But, Persaud pointed out, Guyana was able to develop this variety and it is performing as well as the GRDB 14.
This grain is less vulnerable to attacks from pests and diseases and was produced with significant resistance level.
“Once we are able to market this produce, we can very well say that the future of the rice industry depends of two things: the progress that we make in aromatic breeding… and how well we continue the programme; and secondly, how well we market it internationally,” Persaud emphasised.
The introduction of the new variety was welcomed by farmers present who alluded to the fact that while it has proven feasible with respect to lodging, it is also very high yielding and responds well to fertilizer, allowing farmers to benefit from 50 bags per acre.
A call was also made for more investment at the Institution in research development.
The Ministry of Agriculture acknowledges that a Mr. Kenroy Joseph was
employed with the Ministry of Agriculture during the period January 3rd,
2012 to June 10th, 2014 when he resigned his position. Since his
resignation Mr. Joseph has not been authorized to provide protocol services
for the Minister within the Ministry of Agriculture or any other government
It was reported on page 3 of the January 31st 2015 edition of the Kaieteur
“According to reports, Jones, former personal assistant to Junior
Agriculture Minister Ali Baksh, presented a forged document from the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Airport Duty Office indicating that he
was carrying out protocol duties…”
Please be advised that the Ministry of Agriculture has never had in its
employ any individual named Kenneth Jones. However, since January 3, 2012,
a personal assistant, Mr. Kenroy Joseph, was employed by the Ministry as a
personal assistant to Minister Ali Baksh. According to our records, Mr.
Joseph provided required notice and resigned his position on June 10, 2014.
Flooding along parts of the Essequibo coast, prompted Head of State President Donald Ramotar to visit several hard hit communities. Accompanied by Regional officials including Chairman, Parmanand Persaud and Drainage and Irrigation officials, the president had a firsthand look at outfalls in the communities of Devonshire Castle, Hampton Court, Lima, Anna Regina, Three Friends, Richmond, Reliance and Henrietta.
Region Two Chairman Parmanand Persaud and President Donald Ramotar speaking with National Drainage and Irrigation Authority Head, Lionel Wordsworth and other officials at the Lima Outfall on the Essequibo Coast
In addition to observing the measures being instituted to relieve the accumulation of water, the president was able to meet with residents many of whom voiced their concerns about the situation. President Ramotar instructed regional officials to keep him informed daily of the situation until it was rectified.
The fact that some seven inches of rainfall occurred along parts of the region, over the last two days exacerbated the situation, the president noted. “A lot of the problems have to do with the mud blocking up the outfalls, and constantly as you clear it the mud comes back in”.
Additional equipment is being put in place to remove the flood waters, he added, “We are sending in more dredges and more pumps so that we can have some relief from the situation as far as possible. The most important thing now is to try to get the water off the land”.
He assured residents that officials are doing their best to bring relief to their plight, and empathised with them during this difficult time.
Head of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA), Lionel Wordsworth, said the heavy rains have resulted in flooding in agricultural and residential areas. A big effort now, he said, is to clear the outfalls and sluices to have effective gravity based drainage. “While that is happening, we also redeployed some pumps from the East Coast of Demerara and Georgetown to assist with the situation here”.
President Donald Ramotar speaking with officials and residents at an Outfall on the Essequibo Coast
The NDIA head said that, in addition to the aforementioned measures, a second dredge will be put into operation this evening.
The situation, he admitted, is a very challenging one for his team. “The accumulation along the outfalls is very frequent so it requires a constant effort to keep them clear so that the gravity drainage could be effective. Unless we can overcome these challenges, problems like these can surface sometimes”.
President Donald Ramotar with officials and residents at an Outfall on the Essequibo Coast
He added that 12 pumps are currently operating along the Essequibo coast, and two more will arrive from Georgetown and be pressed into service on Sunday.
Japan’s Vice Foreign Minister pleased with Hope Canal project – checks on JICA- funded irrigation projects
Guyana’s ability to implement adaptation measures to deal with climate change were applauded by Japan’s Vice Foreign Affairs Minister, Takashi Uto, who along with Minister of Agriculture, Dr Leslie Ramsammy and National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) Chief Executive Officer, Lionel Wordsworth visited the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) on January 9.
The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is funding the Guyana Conservancy Adaptation project which will aid in better management and operation of the conservancy, thus, tackling climate change adaptation and mitigation.
The project is being done in two phases. Under phase one, eight excavators and two pontoons were procured, while under phase two, US$3.8 million was provided for the rehabilitation of six structures within the EDWC, which includes, Sarah Johanna, Nancy, Annandale, Hope, Shanks and Maduni.
Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy during a brief discussion with the Japanese Vice Foreign Minister, Takashi Uto and team during a visit to the Northern Relief Channel at the Hope Canal, East Coast Demerara
These works will complement the Hope Canal project for which Government is investing some US$15M.
According to Minister Ramsammy, the ministry is currently engaging in a maintenance programme within the conservancy. He said that the equipment which was procured are currently being used on safeguarding of the 45 – mile long dam and on the in-lets and out-lets within the conservancy canal.
National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) Chief Executive Officer, Lionel Wordsworth explaining works ongoing at the Northern Relief Channel (Hope) east Coast Demerara, to Japan Foreign Affairs Vice Minister, Takashi UTO and team during a visit
The Minister explained that the conservancy is an important irrigation source for all the villages along the East Coast and East Bank. “This conservancy has never been in the condition it is in right now …it is well maintained and we are very proud of the works being done here with the support from the Japanese Government, the IDB and the World Bank,”
Minister Ramsammy further noted that under the Guyana Conservancy Adaptation project which is supported by the World Bank, four pump stations will be constructed along the East Coast this year.
Works ongoing at the Northern Relief Channel at the Hope Canal, East Coast Demerara
During a visit to the Northern Relief Channel (Hope channel), Minister Ramsammy explained that the doors of the head regulator (a sluice system that allows water from the conservancy to enter into the relief channel), are completed.
He said that the next step is to break the dam, which will be done in about two weeks. However, he said that currently, the dam is being strengthened at both ends. “We want to make sure that the water level in our conservancy doesn’t go below 53 GD which is our dead space, because if it does so, the dam integrity is affected, and we want to make sure that is doesn’t get above 57, because if it does, the dam will be compromised with overtopping,” he further noted.
I congratulate and express my profound gratitude to the workers, the management and the Board of GUYSUCO for reaching the 2014 sugar target.
It was not an easy target to reach given the many difficulties that GUYSUCO confronted in 2014. The calamitous drop in sugar price on the global and preferred market scene proved to be a challenge for all sugar industries. The dramatic fall in earnings and, therefore, cash flow would prove precipitous for any industry or any business. In addition, while generally rainfall was down in 2014, rain fell and affected the industry at critical times.
Yet the Board and Management and, particularly the workers realized that the industry is too important for us to allow negative situations to thwart our efforts. The workers continued to face many challenges. While the industry faced financial challenges, workers, like workers in other settings in Guyana and internationally justifiably expect better remuneration. They did not get all they wanted, but they also recognize that this is a Guyanese industry and will serve Guyana and her people for more centuries to come. Workers faced many challenges in terms of weather and infrastructure. Yet, they stuck to the task.
For that I am grateful and dedicate our success this year to the workers. They are our heroes and I am profoundly moved by the many times the workers spoke to me and assured me that nothing will prevent them from doing what is necessary to see the industry overcome its many difficulties.
In spite of the challenges the Board and Management faced, I am glad that they saw workers’ welfare as part of the necessary investment we need to make.
The 2014 target was a modest target, but given where we were climbing from, it was a difficult target. We must congratulate Blairmont, East Demerara, Uitvlugt, Albion and Rose Hall for surpassing their 2014 targets. The other estates also came very close to meeting their targets. We recognize that critics will hone in on Skeldon, given the investments we have made. But Skeldon in 2014 showed signs of finally beginning to meet expectations. We are concern that more rapid progress was not made. But we are encouraged that Skeldon has again improved in 2014.
We look forward to 2015 when the target is being set significantly higher than the 216,000 target for 2014. I am confident that 2015 will be another successful year in terms of the targets and efficiency of production.
I finally thank the Government of Guyana for their steadfast support in meeting some of the financial shortfalls for the industry.
I wish all the workers, GAWU, NACCIE, the management and board of GUYSUCO a happy New Year and a prosperous 2015.
On Tuesday December 30, 2014, Guyana achieved a significant milestone. Guyana’s export shipment exceeded 500,000 tonnes for the first time ever. There are still some 2014 contracts to meet, but these shipments will be completed during the first two weeks of 2015.
I extend my congratulations to all stakeholders. The farmers ignored the doomsayers who wanted farmers to think that their paddy could not be sold. I extend my hearty congratulations to them. As a country Guyana owes much to the rice farmers. Without their production of more than 634,000 tonnes, the ability to expand the rice export market would not have been possible.
I thank the millers who have sought to extend the market to new destinations. We will work together to ensure further growth of the rice export market in 2015. I also thank my staff at the GRDB and the Rice Producers Association.
The actual shipment of over 500,000 tonnes means that almost 80% of the production for 2014 has been exported. Given that local utilization is about 120,000 tonnes, only about 15,000 tonnes remain on hand. Added to our carry-over of about 110,000 tonnes from 2013, we have about 125,000 tonnes on hand that will meet local demand and the international market demands for the period of January to March 2015.
Guyana’s rice export for 2013 amounted to about 395,000 tonnes compared to the 40, 575 in 1989, 200, 336 in 1995, 207, 638 in 2000 and 336, 313 in 2010. The growth in rice export since 2010 has been phenomenal and we expect it to grow even more in 2015.
Of the total export, only about 30 percent of Guyana’s rice was exported to Venezuela while the remainder was exported to countries such as Europe, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, other Caribbean countries and several Central and South American countries, with Panama now the 2nd largest destination for Guyana’s rice.
The rice industry continues to make a significant contribution to Guyana’s economy despite many challenges on local and international markets as Government’s commitment towards ensuring the viability of the rice industry continued with tangible interventions in drainage and irrigation and in ensuring payment to farmers.
Government’s support to the industry has been strong…for example, when farmers were faced with high prices for urea we stepped in to assist also. This investment saw approximately $400M being used to procure urea from Venezuela to make available at a subsidized cost of $5,000 per bag compared to the $10,000 which was being paid. Government is now seeking to ensure availability of urea at a cost of $4,900 per bag. We are hopeful that the private sector will seek to match the government’s price, thus lowering cost of production.
In 2015, we will ensure availability of about 14,000 tonnes of fertilizer is available to farmers from the Government’s investment. This will meet about 33% of the need. We want to ensure that the private sector continues to play a positive role in the supply of fertilizers, but should the need arise for us to invest more to keep the price of fertilizers to below $5,000 per bag, we will do so.
For now, we have a good reason to celebrate the New Year. The rice industry has established a new record.
A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) has exposed itself as being bereft of any idea on how to sustain and develop the rice industry. Every time they open their mouths to speak about the rice industry they remind people why they destroyed the rice industry before 1992. The rice industry must not be a political football to play with the lives of people. APNU clearly is playing dangerous politics with people’s lives. I reject APNU’s propaganda to create confusion in the industry.
APNU did not acknowledge and congratulate the industry, particularly the farmers, for attaining a milestone that many Opposition members once proclaimed as impossible – achieving a production of more than 633,000 tons of rice equivalent for 2014. This production is more than 20 % above last year’s production and more than 20% also above the 2014 target.
The PPP/C has repeatedly this year and in previous years congratulated and expressed our profound gratitude to the famers who invest massively in the rice industry and have achieved way beyond what the Opposition and many of their friends thought was not possible. In 2014, we again express our deepest gratitude to the rice farmers for the work they have done to continue the upward trajectory in production.
APNU disputed the Ministry’s assertion that farmers sold above $42B in paddy sales in 2014. They used the production figure of above 600,000 tons of rice to calculate paddy sales and come up with an average price per bag that is based on voodoo mathematics. The truth is that while the rice production was slightly more than 634,000 tons, paddy production was greater than 972,000 tons or more than 15M bags of paddy.
Had the average price for a bag of paddy be $4,400 as APNU claimed it should have been for an income of above $40B, the actual income would have been more than $64B. This is why they ought to stay out of the industry. They have no knowledge about the industry and they simply play politics with the lives of rice farmers.
APNU claims that the PPP/C Government is preventing the private sector from engaging in the production of rice cereal. The PPP/C Government has been facilitating the rice industry which is totally private sector. Paddy production and rice milling are totally private sector. The Government cultivates no rice lands, other than those at the research center which is used for seed paddy production and research.
Part of the facilitation of the industry has been to promote value added. The private sector was and remains free to develop any aspect of the value-added rice products. We would welcome the private sector becoming engaged in rice cereal production or in any other value-added rice products. The production research was done at Government cost, as part of our facilitation. The Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Tourism and Commerce and the IAST collaborated with technical support from Trent University in Canada to establish the production capacity for rice cereal.
The private sector is welcome to invest in this new component of the rice industry. As a Government, we decided to fast-track the investment in the rice cereal production in Essequibo to add another market for the rice farmers of that Region. Once this factory is operational, with professional staff, we hope that the rice farmers can come together in a cooperative to own the new business. This project, in fact, facilitates the private sector to establish another SME (Small Manufacturing Enterprise) with Government’s facilitation. In their myopic approach to development, APNU absolutely missed the point.
They question the packaging of rice in Guyana. All the rice sold to Panama is in the form of packaged rice. In addition, small amount of packaged rice have been sold to other countries in the Caribbean, Europe and North America. The fact that they dispute that packaged rice is produced in Guyana is indicative of how little they know of the industry. Several facilities around Guyana already produce packaged rice for the local market and for export.
As part of our facilitation to improve efficiency and yield and to reduce cost of production overall in the industry, we made available experts from TERI to work with millers to reduce electricity cost. Through this facilitation, proposals for installing gasification technology in rice factories have been made. At least one miller has already invested in equipment and the gasification equipment will be installed in that rice factory in the first quarter of 2015. We have already identified that the miller is from the Essequibo Coast and that he has invested his own resources, outside of the technical support which is available to all millers.
The selection of the first mill to benefit from the TERI facilitation was entirely up to the private sector. TERI was made available and is still available to all millers. The first installation is being done at a mill where the owner came forward first with his investment. The 2nd one is awaiting the next miller to express interest in investing in this cost-saving exercise. The GOG has no interest in deciding which would be the next mill. Our position is that all mills should invest in gasification technology for cleaner production of rice.
The Guyana-Venezuela deal is a bilateral cooperation program that was entirely worked out between Presidents Bharat Jagdeo and Hugo Chavez. Mr. T. Doerga continues to misinform APNU, but cannot misinform the rice farmers. Venezuela was importing rice for decades, but Guyana never sold any meaningful amount of rice and paddy to Venezuela before the Jagdeo-Chavez agreement and Petro Caribe arrangements.
APNU exposed themselves when they mentioned Mr. Doerga. They gave Mr. Doerga a golden spoon in 1989/90 when they handed over all the government-owned mills to him. Where are these mills today? They should explain why almost 200 rice farmers who sold paddy to Quality Rice Coop were not paid. Government intervened through the GRDB. But this means that someone owes the Government more than $200M which the GOG made available to the farmers of Region 3.
In 2008 and 2009, paddy price was influenced by the global food shortages. Prices on the world market sky-rocketed. We have little to do with the rising price then and we have nothing to do with the fall in price today. Pricing is a pure market phenomenon.
In 2010 the price of paddy was almost totally driven by the Venezuela deal. At that time, export to Venezuela accounted for almost 70% of total production in Guyana. In 2014, export to Venezuela only accounts for about 30% of total production. This means that the average price is now dictated by export to other destinations and while Guyana has been able to maintain favorable prices at these other destinations, the price is significantly lower than to the Venezuelan destination.
Guyana has expanded the rice market to many other countries. Our almost total dependency on Venezuela has been reduced and should the Venezuelan market not be available at any future time, Guyana will be able to absorb the rice being sold to Venezuela in the other markets. Sensible management of the industry has created a much safer industry than the one which depended on a single market destination.
As this statement is being prepared, Guyana has exported more than 499,872 tons of rice, and other shipments are in the port for export. This means that we will attain another milestone, the first ever time that Guyana has exported 500,000 tons of rice. I recall several Opposition members criticizing me and urging me to curtain the expansion of production because “we can’t sell so much rice”. But our position was that we stood ready to support our farmers and millers. With Government’s facilitation the market is about 10 times what it was in 1990.
The Government of Guyana has provided support during every crop to ensure payments are made to farmers. In spite of the transactions being purely private sector, between private rice farmers and private millers, the GOG has intervened on several occasions in each crop to prompt full payment to farmers. We have worked with millers and bankers to ensure a more timely payment to farmers. While we are unhappy with the timeliness of payment by millers, we also acknowledge that while farmers used to wait for more than a year to receive payment, we have now reached a stage where payments are made within the crop.
As we speak, another $1.2B payment is being made by millers. This would mean that by the end of the year, less than 2% of payments due to farmers for the 2014 crops will be still outstanding. We will ensure that all farmers are fully paid in the shortest time possible. This is not new for the GOG. It is an initiative that we have taken each crop to bring relief. The situation is not perfect and we would continue to work for more timely payments. But the situation has vastly improved and we will not allow the Opposition to create disruption in an industry that continues to serve Guyana outstandingly.
APNU (PNC) has no moral option to speak on an industry that it crippled in its time in Government. APNU’s leading member, the PNC, caused the collapse of the industry, the abandonment of rice land and pauperized the farmers. Under the PNC, we had to get Food for the Poor to bring in rice to feed our people. Today, it seeks to misinform farmers and the Guyanese people. But clearly they are still out of their depths when it comes to the rice industry. Their advisors clearly have led them up the creek and they have been exposed as being totally ignorant of the industry.
Hon. Dr. Leslie Ramsammy
Minister of Agriculture
The Government of Guyana released another $1.5B today to assist in paying off rice farmers. At the beginning of the week, Government intervened with about $600M and today, the Government released from the Petrocaribe account advanced payments for another $1.5B, making the amounts so far for the second half of December, $2.1B.
At the beginning of the week, farmers were owed about $3B and after payments of the latest advances which we hope will be completed by next Monday, the amount owed to rice farmers will be less than $1B. These are not loans, but payments made earlier so that millers pay off farmers.
At present, the GRDB and the RPA are working with farmers to ensure that millers complete all payments before the end of the year. We urge the millers to work through their bankers to make all outstanding payments to farmers. While the Ministry acknowledges that a valiant effort was made by millers, we still believe that they must ensure 100% payment to farmers within the Rice Factory Act timeline.
The accumulated sales of paddy by rice farmers to millers amounted to greater than $42B for the two crops in 2014. At this time, millers would have paid off more than $39B, or greater than 93%. While this is commendable, the millers must make an even greater effort to meet their obligations to farmers. Increasingly, the GRDB is making more rigid requirements on millers and we are cautioning millers that we will ensure that they pay interest on their debt to farmers in 2015.
The industry has now closed off its harvesting, with a final production of 633,000 tons to date. This is almost 100,000 tons greater than the 2013 production and more than 200,000 tons than the 2012 production. The yield this year was about 5.4 tons of paddy per ha or about 35 bags per acre. Harvesting was from 93,000 ha. In terms of paddy, the country is close to achieving for the first time one million tons of paddy production. This was thought to be highly impossible for a country like Guyana.
Export stands today at 490,000 tons with further shipments to be made in the next week before the end of the year and we are confident of reaching a historic milestone of 500,000 tons export for 2014. Guyana’s market for rice has expanded to several countries in Central America and we are returning to pre-2010 export of rice to Haiti. Brazil and Columbia are also growing destinations for Guyana’s rice.
Guyana continues to engage several African countries which have expressed interest in Guyana’s rice. Most of these countries are in West Africa and the 2014 Ebola crisis in West Africa delayed progress on realizing these new markets.
In addition, several Middle Eastern countries have approached Guyana and these possibilities have been discussed. In the meanwhile, we are settling the 2015 contract with Venezuela. Export to Venezuela accounted for almost 70% of Guyana’s rice production in 2010. Today, the export to Venezuela is still one of our most important export destinations, but this destination only accounts for about 30% of Guyana’s rice production.
Guyana’s rice industry is also poised for expansion into value-added products. While bulk export of rice continues to be the main export from the rice industry, 2014 evidenced the largest amount of packaged rice sold. Packaged rice export amounted to about 50,000 tons in 2014. In collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Commerce and IAST, rapid advances have been made in acquiring a rice cereal factory and we expect this to produce commercial quantity of rice cereal in 2015.
At the same time, we expect the first major bio-energy plant replacing about 70% of fossil fuel utilization in the operation of a rice factory in Essequibo to be in place by the first quarter of 2015. The GRDB and the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the TERI Group is working to ensure at least three such bio-fuel substitution occur in 2015. The TERI Group is also working with us to establish a paddy husk pellet project to utilize paddy husk for generating energy off-site.
In addition to Government’s enormous improvement of drainage and irrigation, increased production of high quality paddy seeds, expansion of research for new varieties and to fight pests and diseases, extension services, access to affordable fertilizers, for which the government invests large sums of money, these investments continue to strengthen the rice industry and transforming it to a giant in the economic and social development of Guyana.