For the first time in years, the agriculture sector which was allocated $23.8 Billion is on track to set more records. With almost every sub-sector showing expansion, agriculture is on target to be this year’s highest average contributor to Gross Domestic Product.
Agriculture has regained its prominence after several years of being the number two GDP contributor, behind the extractive sector.
This year, saw the operationalisation of a number of infrastructure support structures, including the installation of drainage pumps in key areas, the commissioning of three laboratories to service the needs of several agriculture subsectors and the opening of new markets for exports for products such as rice, which again boomed in 2014.
D&I – largest pump capacity in any year
This year witnessed the country’s drainage capacity more than doubling with the ministry adding about 1650 cubic feet per second (cuft/sec). This represented a 16 percent expansion of the pumped drainage capacity and the ability to pump 40 million gallons per day. It also represents the largest increase in pump capacity in any single year and brings Guyana’s total drainage capacity to 10163 cuft/sec.
For 2014, pumps stations were operationalised in Regions 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, namely at : Three Friends in Region Two, Windsor Forest, Patentia, and Canal Polder One in Region Three, Paradise in Region Four, Pine Ground in Region Five, and Number 19 Village, Rose Hall, Number 56 Village and Canje in Region Six.
Minister of Agriculture Dr Leslie Ramsammy signs rice deal in Panama
Between 2014 and 2015, the Ministry of Agriculture plans to spent $2B on the construction of pump stations (cost of pumps not included.) To this end, in the coming month, the following pump stations are due to be commissioned: Lima, Region Two, and at Eversham, Bengal and Number 43 Village on the Corentyne. At the latter, a pump station is being built on the eastern side of the koker that will double the drainage capacity in the area.
In addition in 2015, the ministry will complete the design and will begin the construction of pump stations and the installation of new pumps at Ogle, Mon Repos and at Hope/Enmore. These interventions should see the equalling in 2015 of the pump capacity similar to the input made in 2014.
Meanwhile, the East Demerara Water Conservancy’s Hope Canal Project located at Hope, East Coast Demerara is expected to come to fruition by December 31. Already the bridge has been commissioned. The canal itself and the head regulator are virtually completed and the sluice too is also progressing. The entire project, other than landscaping and cleaning up of site is on target to be completed by the end of December. This four-component project when completed is expected to offer a real solution to the risk of the failure of the EDWC; a situation that has the potential to occur.
Animal health, tissue culture and biotechnology capacity
Meanwhile in a strong demonstration of Government’s commitment to pursue a robust agricultural programme and produce products of international standard, three critical laboratories were commissioned. These include the country’s first modern laboratory to deal with prevention, diagnosis and treatment of animal diseases. The Guyana Livestock Development Authority’s Veterinary laboratory located at Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara, fully equipped with world class equipment and testing apparatuses, was an investment to the tune of $326 million. To date this laboratory has completed testing of over 3000 samples. Among the tests being done are those for foot and mouth disease, bovine brucellosis, heart worm and the routine testing for haematology.
The other two modern laboratories, the Biological Control and Tissue Culture laboratories, constructed at a cost of $300M are located at the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI). The Tissue Culture Lab, in addition to providing tissue culture plantlets, is also designed to carry out molecular studies in the plant sciences. The Biological Control Lab caters for work in molecular biotechnology, which is an indispensible component of field-based research.
New pump station at Patentia, Region Three
Currently, the ministry is working to expand the capacity at these labs with the assistance of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO.) These two agencies have sent experts to Guyana to work with the ministry in building the technical capacity to operate efficient the laboratories. The ministry hired Biology and Chemistry graduates from the University of Guyana and is currently training them to work in the labs.
Some 30,000 plantlets are expected to be produced from the tissue culture lab in 2015. In 2014, the lab supported significantly the production of plantlets for plantains and pineapples. To this end, whilst in 2013, the production for pineapple was just over 6000 kilogrammes in 2014 it exceeded 18,000 kilogrammes.
Meanwhile there was also the continued push for alternative energy as the Agriculture Ministry launched Guyana’s first bio-gas demonstration facility.
Furthering investment in infrastructure support for the agriculture sector, this year saw the ministry building its capacity in GIS/GPS and for the first time using its own human and capital resources to complete soil mapping for Region Five. Whilst Guyana has completed soil testing for different parts of the country, it has never completed a soil mapping for the more than three million hectares of agriculture land Guyana possesses, and in the past such works would have had to be supported by international partners both from a financial and technical perspectives.
President Donald Ramotar looking through a microscope at one of the new labs
This means that the ministry is now able to tell what type of crops can be supported by agriculture in the region and better advice farmers and investors.
The goal now is to complete GIS/GPS mapping for Regions 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 before 2020 and as part of this exercise, the ministry has established a GIS/GPS unit within the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) and appointed an Engineer to lead this unit.
Crop and livestock production increases
Meanwhile, rice continued to stake its claim as Guyana’s top agricultural commodity, even as production for sugar improved significantly and the industry achieved much success with regards to its venture into new crops.
Guyanese rice farmers, for the first time produced in excess of 600,000 tonnes of rice, eclipsing significantly the 2013 production figures. In fact, to date with 99 percent of the 2014 harvest completed, the industry has thus far recorded a production of 633,000 tonnes, which is about 100,000 more than 2013 production of 530,000.
By the end of the year, Guyana is also set to achieve record, export of 500,000 tonnes. This would mean that the paddy sale by farmers would exceed $45.M, and export earnings, US$250M. It helped significantly that this year; Guyana was able to secure a new rice agreement with Panama to supply approximately 5,000 tonnes of rice per month to the country.
The Enterprise Pump Station
The only concern, for the industry has been that whilst there have been many successes, some millers have not yet paid off the farmers and as of December 14, outstanding payment from millers to farmers was about $3.5B. The Ministry however, has already commenced a number of interventions to ensure farmers are paid. This includes a specially convened meeting with the millers and working out an arrangement whereby the ministry through the errant millers can supply 700,000 tonnes of fertilisers to farmers charging $5,000 per bag. The latter is part of ensuring some of what the millers owe to farmers is discounted through the process.
- $500M support to farmers
This year, the government provided $500M as support for the rice industry. The bulk of this money was spent on the provision of additional structure at the Number 56 rice seed facility, which was originally build under ADP/IDB funding, that provided only for the construction of factory. This year, the money was spent to add other structures such as the silos and testing facility.
The remainder of the $500M is being spent to purchase equipment including lasers and combine to support especially small farmers. It is expected that the Number 56 seed facility will become operationalised by 2015, providing quality seed paddy to farmers.
Meanwhile, the sugar industry continues to show its resilience and is set to achieve its 2014 target of 216,000 tonnes. At the moment, the industry has already surpassed the 2013 production by more than 10 percent, meeting the first of 2014 objectives- to pass the 2013 production. Sugar production was 212,000 tonnes as of December 14.
The recently commissioned Biological Control Lab at Mon Repos
This was started in the period 2006-2011 as part of the Grow More Food Campaign, aimed at not only stopping the importation of certain crops, but introducing new crops into the local market. These include cauliflower and broccoli. Guyana is set to produce 1,000 kilogrammes of these crops by the end of this year.
Meanwhile it is expected that by 2020 local production should be at a rate that eliminates the need for importation of carrots. This year, the ministry began commercial production of the crop. The ministry was also able to reproduce the growing conditions for potatoes and so expects the first commercial crop in 2015.
Meanwhile there was significant progress in Guyana’s continued venture in spice production with 2014 witnessed more than 25 percent increase in production of turmeric, ginger and black pepper.
2015 will also see the ministry embarking into production of a number of tradition crops such as soursop and sijan, whose particular health benefits have been gaining international attention.
This year also saw the increased production of all meats. Guyana produced more 30 million kilogrammes of chicken and 2.5 million kilogrammes of beef, (largest production of beef in the last decade). Meanwhile, pork production is set to surpass 500,000 kilogrammes and small ruminants, 100,000 kilogrammes. Twenty million eggs were produced this year, whilst milk production is set to exceed 5 million litres.
Taking agriculture forward
Going forward, the industry is set to record even more records as during the next seven years, a number of agencies and the Ministry of Agriculture’s Heads of Departments will be challenged to transform their roles and work together to implement a very ambitious strategy for the local agriculture sector.
If successful, agriculture will then emerge as an even stronger vehicle for sustained economic and social prosperity in Guyana. To this end, 2014 also saw the Ministry of Agriculture introducing a 2013-2020 National Agriculture Strategy that sets out an overarching goals of achieving this growth for the sector, the main one being food and nutrition security in an environmentally sustainable manner, whilst at the same time generating economic growth and opportunities.
With the imminent announcement of yet another year of economic growth, agriculture can again be termed the leading sectors this achievement.
Agriculture Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, who during an interview on the National Communications Network’s ‘Political Scope’ programme on December 11, said that whatever the final figure of GDP growth is, his sector will have the highest average contribution and its growth for 2014 will exceed 5%.
The minister added that every sub-sector within the ministry will also show expansion. This includes rice, sugar, fisheries, livestock, traditional and non -traditional cash crops. The sector, it was revealed has accounted for more than half a billion dollars in export earnings, with rice earning more than US$250 million. In September of this year, it was also noted by the minister that the amount of cash crop exports had already exceeded the total amount for 2013.
In terms of drainage and irrigation, Minister Dr. Ramsammy said this remains key to the sector’s expansion. “This year we have added 1,200 cu sec to the capacity of Guyana, what that means is that some 30 million gallons of water is pumped every hour.”
There has been massive investment by government in this area, and pumping capacity has been increased over the levels since 1990 when only approximately 4,000 cu sec was being pumped.
“We have more than doubled the pumping capacity,” the minister stated. The addition, four more stations will result in an increase of more than 1,000 cu sec, in 2015. This will build capacity to deal with the myriad changes being wrought by climatic change effects. The Hope Canal is essentially complete, with the head regulator and bridge finished, and the outer sluice almost complete, the agriculture minister reported. The Cunha canal is almost completed, he added as he acknowledged that there are some constraints but these are being addressed.
Rice has boomed again this year and the search for more markets has led to Panama, now the number two export destination for rice. It is now being sold to places where there was no market one year ago, he added. Some 500,000 tonnes will be exported this year as compared to the 50,000 tonnes in 1990.
Other cash crops are gracing the tables of regional neighbours such as Trinidad, Barbados, North America and Europe. The ministry is setting up a “Trade Facilitation Unit” as a one stop shop for those wishing to export agriculture produce to take advantage of the expanding cash crop exports.
Touching on the sugar sector, he said that it is slowly recovering, with the 2014 target of 216,000 tonnes within arm’s reach.
The move towards more value added products has seen the spearheading of the construction of a factory producing rice based cereal in various flavours. This is being done in Essequibo, Minister Ramsammy said. “Graduates can go back because there are different kinds of jobs outside of the field, factory maintenance, factory management, marketing etc”.
A turn-key flour factory is also in the works, he explained. This will see increased demand for cassava, eddo and plantain, all of which can be blended with the imported wheat flour for more nutritional meals.
With an import bill amongst the highest in the world, for the Caribbean, the agriculture minister said that Guyana can take advantage of this once it can reduce its own dependency on imported foods. For Guyana, the average is around US$300M annually, the Caribbean’s is over US$4Billion. Crops such as potatoes which are imported can be grown locally and research has already proven this. Broccoli and cauliflower are no longer imported as they too are grown locally, he emphasised noting that these provide more opportunities for farmers as they are able to diversify what they produce. Another crop, carrot is being grown here and it hoped that by 2020, its import can be halted with local farmers supplying what is needed. Turmeric and ginger are also being produced in Region One and brought to market in a semi-processed form. All of these foods have to be produced in a safe, nutritious, high quality manner, he stressed and this will encourage Guyanese to want to buy what is produced locally.
Looking at Livestock and meat production, it was revealed that some 30 million kilograms of chicken will be produced this year, while eggs will number around 50 million, he added. The country is self sufficient in these products and unlike previous years, the minister said “there hasn’t been too much noise” in terms of shortages. Beef supplies, which exceed more than a thousand tonnes is enough for local demand. The supply of pork presents a unique dilemma with high prices for consumers, that is, 2012, and low prices for producers in 2014, due to increased production. Around 300 tonnes of “small ruminant” meat is also produced annually and this includes mutton and goat.
The production of milk, at some 50 million litres annually is still not enough for local needs and 80% of the diary product, used locally is actually imported. Plans are in train to address this shortfall and high yield livestock is being sourced and imported with a view to bettering the local livestock. Five thousand (5,000) acres in Region 5 have been set aside and at least 300 farmers have indicated their interest in this. Some investors are pursing the setting up of a plant to produce, yogurt, ice cream, cheese and pasteurised milk. Sterling Products was praised for their efforts in this regard, and the minister noted that they already had locally made yogurt, in addition to ice cream.
“We have to develop some brands and we have to develop loyalty to our brands”. This will lead to further employment and other benefits, he added.
Projecting for 2015, Minister Dr. Ramsammy said that efforts to boost sugar production will continue and he is optimistic that “sugar will earn its place as the number one agricultural product in our country”.
He added that rice will; no doubt, continue to create records, and more infrastructural works will be executed to permit more land usage, he explained. The planned European Union Project to dam the Mahaicony River should see at least 200,000 acres of new farm lands being made available. The Aurora Project in Region 2 will see an additional 5,000 acres also being available for agriculture, in addition to the Canje Basin, where the first acreage of Palm Oil plants is expected. The first commercial crops of corn and soya are also expected in the New Year according to the minister.
In terms of livestock, a state of the art abattoir and livestock plant will also be built.
As an aside, a shark management plan will be put in place to certify those catching shark and producing shark fins. This is due to the fish being placed on the endangered species list. Unless this is done, there will be no export of this highly regarded delicacy, the agriculture minister said. (GINA)
A team of Trinidadian investors are currently in Guyana along with that Country’s Agriculture Minister Devant Maharaj, scoping agricultural lands with the hope of engaging in large scale agricultural activities here.
This visit is in keeping with the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which was signed in 2013 between the Governments of Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago which addresses the need to improve food security and reduce the food import bill of the two countries.
Representatives from both countries met yesterday, including Maharaj and Guyana’s Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy.
Reporting on the meeting today, Dr. Ramsammy said another positive step has been taken in advancing the 2013 MOU which will result in proposals for possible investment.
Meanwhile, Maharaj described the ongoing discussions as fruitful; adding that the Trinidadian investors are impressed with the potential of this venture.
“Many thought that when we first floated this idea, many years ago, it would remain a pie in the sky goal, not to be achieved… we have already in Guyana Trinidad and Tobago Citrus Growers Association with 1000 acres allocated to them of which 200 acres are in cultivation,” he added.
The Trinidad Minister said this is a successful model that the current investors can look at with plans to expand and set up a pulping and juicing facility in Guyana.
Among the commodities farmers will cultivate in Guyana, with indirect effects of reducing the food import bill of Trinidad, are corn, soybean and fruits.
Minister Ramsammy clarified that the lands will be leased to the Trinidadian investors and the project will pattern the Santa Fe Rice Project in Region 9, which can be considered the first and largest agriculture project under the Jagdeo initiative.
He said depending on the crop to be grown, the soil type will be different but currently investors are scoping lands in the Canje Basin, Region Six and the intermediate savannah.
Dr. Ramsammy assured local farmers that there will be no competition in current areas of agriculture but explained that the project will create new areas and introduce mechanized farming.
He said there are limits to the lands that will be leased; adding that “We are not willing to lease a large amount that will just sit there but we are willing to lease a reasonable amount to do farming and then if necessary they can apply for more which we will look at with a positive attitude.”
A section of the investors from Trinidad and Tobago at the meeting
When the Trinidadian government undertook to mobilize its private sector to come to Guyana and make use of the land provided as it was partly intended to produce crops for products which that country at present imports from outside the Caribbean, it was met with rejection back home.
To this end, Maharaj said “sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity is a danger to the world… those statements that emanated came from farmers with political affiliations… using their substantial agriculture position attempted to launch political volleys without understanding the full scope of what we are doing.”
The Trinidad Minister described the venture as a “win – win” situation for both countries; explaining that investors with the finance and technology who have no lands in Trinidad to do large scale farming can turn to Guyana without affecting local formers and improve infrastructure and create employment. (www.inewsguyana.com)
The work of the New Guyana Marketing Corporation (NGMC) to better collect and analyse production data of non-traditional agriculture crops in a timely manner received a significant boost as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Monday handed over four (4) desktop computers to the entity.
The donation is part of the FAO/TCP project titled, “Support for the Enhancement of the National Agricultural Market Information System in Guyana”.
Minister of Agriculture Dr. Leslie Ramsammy (center) flanked by FAO’s Country Representative to Guyana Ms. Khadija Musa and General Manager, GMC Mr. Nizam Hassan
Agriculture Ministry Dr. Leslie Ramsammy in delivering brief remarks reiterated the importance of such a program noting that it will pave the way for the Ministry of Agriculture to have a more functional Market information system.
“This will ensure that that we readily have available appropriate price and volume data at local markets, market requirements and price data for export as well as crop forecast for local production among other,” he said.
Apart from the purchase of the four computers the US$121,000 project also saw the production Data Collection strategy for Non-traditional agriculture crops being finalized, the development of a training curriculum as well as training programs for extension officers, crop reporters and price collectors.
According to Dr. Ramsammy, the project will ensure that Guyana significantly contribute to the promotion of regional food security and contribute to alleviating one of the key binding constraints of the Jagdeo Initiative which is the lack of market information.
Food and Agriculture Organization’s Country Representative to Guyana Ms. Khadija Musa who also holds the portfolio as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative spoke of the importance in ensuring farmers readily access information as to what, when and how much of a particular crop to plant.
This, she says, is necessary so as to better capitalize on the high prices and avoid gluts on the market.
Minister Ramsammy dismisses Stabroek News article- says disruption of meeting in UK was orchestrated
Minister of Agriculture Dr. Leslie Ramsammy has dismissed allegations in an article in the November 26 edition of the Stabroek Newspaper titled “Ramsammy confronted at UK meeting over prorogation, alleged links to Roger Khan.”
The article stated that the Minister came under fire for misleading Guyanese citizens about the government’s suspension of Parliament and over his alleged ties to now convicted drug kingpin Roger Khan. The Stabroek News said Ramsammy was confronted by self-described political activist Norman Browne, who questioned why he was at the forum and not the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Minister Ramsammy told the Government Information Agency (GINA) that, “my own impression is that it was orchestrated because one person came to tape that part of the meeting, only that part and once they said what they said, they left.”
He pointed out that he was in London for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) meeting and during his stay the High Commissioner in London invited him to a meeting to allow him to interact with the Diaspora.
He added that during the meeting the interest of the Diaspora was that of the Prorogation of the Parliament and that is what he centered his discussion on. However, about 15 minutes into the discussion he was interrupted by a man who walked in and “seemed to take over the meeting”.
The Minister described this individual’s behaviour as insulting, uncouth and loud. Minister Ramsammy pointed out at this point that the Chairman of the meeting appealed to the man that he waits until the Minister was finished speaking to ask questions, but the young man refused to do so.
This was followed by calls from the participants at the meeting for him to allow the Minister to speak, but these also went unheard. He made allegations towards various Guyanese Ministers such as they are on the wanted list among others.
As for statements in the newspaper about the police’s intervention, the Minister said that he has no knowledge of such.
Government’s increased investments in boosting the country’s drainage capacity, through better kept drains and increased pumping capacity have resulted in water draining at a faster rate.
This was evident, during the recent record rainfall that resulted in large swathes of the capital, Georgetown, lower East Bank Demerara, West Bank Demerara, Essequibo Coast, and villages in Region Four being flooded. However, unlike previous occasions, the City and affected areas quickly drained, some in less than two days.
Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy pointed out that in the past, anything above 150mm of rain on the upper East Coast of Demerara that was experienced in a 24- hour period would have led to almost two weeks of flooding. Certainly in agriculture lands that water would have taken about two weeks to recede, whilst it would have taken a week to a week-and-a-half for residential yards to drain. “This time within less than a week, we were able to move all the water,” the Minister pointed out.
When a team from the Ministry visited the community of Hope on the East Coast (one of the most affected of the flooded areas because more of the Hope agriculture land are towards the backlands,” all the water had receded.
Then there was Canal Number One and Two Polders, where small amounts of rainfall in the past led to substantial flooding. During the November 20 rainfall, both Polders had some flood, but it was not sustained.
The approximately 190mm of rainfall that was recorded in Georgetown on November 20, would have lasted more than a week, but “given an improved infrastructure and because of the clean-up campaign, that 190mm of rain did not cause a major of flood as it could have caused,” Minister Ramsammy pointed out.
The Agriculture Minister credited this to a number of factors including the ministry’s effort at keeping the main drainage canal in an improved condition, thereby allowing for better movement of the water to the sea.
Minister Ramsammy noted that the ministry has been regularly cleaning both primary (main) and secondary canals (the community drains) and has been focused on maintaining the various outfalls across the country, which are always in constant need of desilting.
The Minister said that in terms of the city, desilting is the responsibility of the municipality and not that of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authourity (NDIA.) The NDIA’s focus has been on the drainage facilities that lead into the sea such as the one at Number 43 in Region Six and at Three Friends in Essequibo.
“So Region Two has an excavator on a pontoon that are dedicated to Region Two, but there are about five outfalls and often time before it gets to the fifth, the number one needs desilting again,” the Minister explained.
Then there has been focus on the sluices. Minister Ramsammy said that whilst “we occasionally have an issue, these are better maintained.” Some of these sluices were poorly maintained by the region or the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC,) but the NDIA has taken these over, the Minister.
The other intervention has been more pumping capacity at present across the country. Over the years, government has invested significantly in boosting the drainage system in several areas, and communities that have benefitted from million dollar pumps and sluices include Buxton/Friendship and Golden/Grove Victoria among others. The latter was rehabilitated at the cost of $61M, and forms part of a $254M drainage boost to the area which also includes the rehabilitation of several structures. Over 5000 acres of farmland in the Golden Grove/Victoria community are benefiting from these improvements. Meanwhile, the Cane Grove Pump constructed at a cost of $60M allows for the drainage of just over 7000 acres of farmland in that location.
Just recently, there was the investment, through an Indian line of credit of US$4M for the acquisition of 14 fixed and mobile pumps to assist farmers at the regional level. Eight of the pumps were fixed to drain a total of 56,000 hectares of lands in the following areas including Windsor Forest-9000 acres, Number 43, Black Bush Polder-18,000 acres, Skeldon -6000 acres and Rosehall -5000 acres.
“There was a major flood and it could have been worse had it not been for that,” and that is why, Minister Ramsammy said that there continues to be such interventions including maintaining the ongoing clean-up my country initiative, that focuses on cleaning up drains and main drainage canals in the city.
“We have to make sure that all 11 sluices are maintained, we have to ensure that desilting is done,” but even with all that, the Minister noted that the “capacity for the drainage system is about two inches or 42 to 50 mm of rain in a 24 hour period”.
Meanwhile, the Minister also noted some of the factors for the city and villages along the coast resulting in flood like situation whenever it rains. “People are building concrete bridges, and concrete pavements that do not cater for cleaning of the drains…all the drains are taken over by concrete bridges and pavement by manholes…”
“When last they opened a manhole and cleaned the drains?” the Minister asked. He added that “once you build those structures, your responsibility is to clean them.”
Minister Ramsammy said that the city needs to put systems in place like more developed countries that if the person whose responsibility it is to have these manholes cleaned and has not done so, then the city does it and bills that person.
Then there is the issue of the Styrofoam and plastic. “I have called now 13 years for a banning of Styrofoam and plastic, those of you who have followed me as Minister of Health knows I used to make that a routine part of my addresses …so time is now to ban Styrofoam and plastics,” the Minister said.
The Ministry of Agriculture has not yet released its targeted rice production for 2015, but Minister of Agriculture Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, offering an early take said that he does not foresee that the 2015 production will be less than 600,000 tonnes.
Guyana’s rice production, for the first time ever, surpassed 600,000 tonnes, a record that was broken on October 27, with just under 86 percent of the crop harvested.
Minister Ramsammy said that in terms of 2015, the industry is expected to sustain this production, despite the fact that the prices offered for rice and paddy in this second crop were not as high as those offered in the first crop and certainly below those offered in 2013.
“Many people have said that the cultivation will drop off, the indication that we have right now is that we will have the same amount of land under cultivation in the first crop of 2015 which would be somewhere around 95,000 hectares, which is over 200,000 acres, which means that the conditions, that include payment have not discouraged the farmers from going back,” Minister Ramsammy said.
“Given that we are about 5.5 tonnes (yield) per hectares, I would expect that the 600,000 tonnes that we exceeded in 2014 can again be exceeded in 2015,” he said. In fact, the Minister said that Guyana, with the conditions experienced now, without any extra land can in fact reach 800,000 tonnes, more so if agriculture practices continue to be improved. “We have gone from 2 tonnes per hectare in the late 1980s, early 1990s to 5.5 tonnes per hectare, and if we continue those improvements, that will make the difference,” the Minister said.
That the rice sector continues to experience an annual increase, is not only as a result of more land being put under cultivation, but also because farmers are being exposed to improved farming techniques and have access to better seed varieties. These in turn increase the harvest per hectare.
Experimental plots of new rice varieties
Minister Ramsammy pointed out that with the new rice variety, the GRDB 14 being introduced in this coming crop, then it is expected that yield would increase even further. “If we have just an increase in yield to 6 tonnes per hectare, it will take us to 800,000 (tonnes), and if we then have some increase in land, you are looking at Guyana being able to reach 1 million tonnes,” the Minister said.
“I am not saying that we should try to get there quickly, because we need to also build our market, but the market potential is available for Guyana. We just need to ensure we supply that,” he said.
Guyana has built an industry based on its boost of having the longest grain rice, but there are markets that also want medium grain rice, hence Minister Ramsammy explained that the country needs to look at what it is growing.
Historic 2014 production
Meanwhile, Minister Ramsammy reported that the country has attained rice production of about 630,000 tonnes for 2014 thus far, with small pockets of fields remaining to be harvested. These were due to be completed in the week of November 20, but the rainfall experienced in the country affected harvesting.
“Whilst the heavy rainfall had little impact on the new cultivation, and in fact many farmers welcomed the rain for that purpose, those who were late in harvesting could see some losses.”
Farmers inspect rice crop cultivated under the six-point method which produces higher yield
He said that the ministry is at present monitoring the non-harvested acres. “We do not have at the moment any sense of loss from that, but we would be surprised that some people, not some much because of the flooding, but because they would require dry dam conditions and so to bring in combine and remove the paddy, would have some difficulty,” he said.
Export heading for 500,000 tonnes
Minister Ramsammy also reported that at the moment, the industry has also surpassed for the first time in history the 450,000 tonnes of actual export. This is rice that has already reached their destination in the export market. The country still has some 85,000 tonnes under contract for delivery in 2014 which would mean that it would meet 500,000 tonnes this year, for the first time, in the country’s history.
The Minister said that he has been examining how long it took the industry to get to the 50,000-tonne export mark, then to 100,000 tonnes and further. “The story in Guyana is that we passed the 100,000, then 200,000 then 300,000-tonne mark, but then jumped from 300,000 to 500,000, if we do reach it this year. It took us almost 80 years to reach the first 100,000 tonnes of export, but it took us less than one year to go from 300,000 to 500,000 tonnes,” Minister Ramsammy pointed out.
Rice being loaded for export to Venezuela
He said that the only thing that would prevent the country from reaching 500,000 tonnes this year would be bad weather affecting the loading of ships. “If we are able to load just 50,000 tonnes in the next five weeks we should be able to reach 500, 000,” the Minister said.
By October, the quantity actually shipped was 77,000 tonnes, by far the most rice ever exported in a single year.
Meanwhile, in terms of sales by farmers to millers, the country has exceeded thus far $42 billion, Minister Ramsammy said. Out of that sum, the majority was made to farmers. Whilst commending the millers for their efforts, he also noted that there is still about $6 billion that is outstanding and in this regard appealed to the millers to make a real effort to have these paid.
The Minister did say however, that he met with the banks recently and is aware that they are at present providing loans to the millers to pay off part of that $6B.
As part of government’s drive to enhance local livestock breeds, the Guyana Livestock and Development Authority (GLDA) handed over 12 specially bred pigs to swine farmers on November 20.
The record rainfall which occurred on November 20 resulted in large swathes of the capital, Georgetown, lower East Bank Demerara, West Bank Demerara, Essequibo Coast, and villages in Region Four being flooded.
The MV Oslo left Venezuela today (November 18th) with 7,000 tons (140,000 bags) of Urea fertilizer for farmers in Guyana. The fertilizer will be available to famers by Monday, November 24.
Trinidad and Tobago Agriculture Minister is expected to lead a delegation to Guyana before the end of this month, with the hope of finalising the agriculture land deal between the two Caribbean nations.