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Government working on alleviating flooding at Essequibo rice lands

The Ministry of Agriculture and the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) are working assiduously to alleviate the flooding of rice lands on the Essequibo Coast.

 

The issue was reported to Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo on Saturday morning and he immediately alerted newly appointed Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder. Prime Minister Nagamootoo and Minister Holder dispatched NDIA head Lionel Wordsworth to the affected area and instructed that all efforts be made to bring relief to the affected rice farmers.

Over 1000 acres of rice lands between Queenstown and Devonshire Castle have been affected by the flood waters. Water had accumulated in the backlands over the past several days and excessive rainfall overnight exacerbated the situation.

Two pontoons fitted with two excavators each were this morning deployed to Windsor Castle and Capoey where they are being operated to desilt the outfall channels there. Regrettably it has been confirmed that the previous administration did not dredge or desilt the outfall channels in the area during the dry season. The excessive silt build up along with various sluices not being operational or fully operational have compounded the problem.

Of the eight sluices in the affected area, only two located at Anna Regina and La Union are working satisfactorily. Six pumps are working on a 24- hour basis in an effort to reduce the water level. Arrangements are also being made for an 80 cu sec pump to be taken into the affected area by tomorrow, Sunday, May 24. This pump will be located at Taymouth Manor.

Prime Minister Nagamootoo and Minister Holder both expressed deep concern for the welfare of the affected rice farmers and hope that the flood waters will recede appreciably as a result of the measures being taken. They have committed that every effort will be made to continue the process of battling the flood waters so that the problem does not spread to residential areas which are currently threatened.

 

Plans for intermediate savannahs a priority for new Agriculture Minister

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Mr. Noel Holder takes his oath before President David A Granger as Minister of Agriculture

Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder has indicated that his special interest and priority would be plans for the intermediate savannahs, plans which have been in abeyance for 20 years.

During a brief interview after his swearing in on Friday, by President David A Granger at the Office of the President (soon to be renamed the Ministry of the Presidency), Minister Holder noted that first he would have to familiarise himself with the staff of the Ministry along with the agricultural situation in Guyana and the various sub-agencies attached to the Ministry.  

He pointed to the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA), and the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) among other areas which comprise the width of the Ministry, and with which he has to familiarise himself. Minister Holder also noted too the interface with international agencies such as the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the Organisation of American States (OAS) among others which also need to be looked at.  

Regarding the intermediate savannahs, Minister Holder indicated that this was his special interest with respect to agricultural development. He also observed that with the advent of climate change, not enough has been done on the coastland and focus would be placed on this area.

Minister Holder has been an agriculturist for 36 years and the Chief Executive Officer for i-Net Communications Incorporated.

State -of- the -art seed facility commissioned at Number 56 Village

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The rice seed facility at Number 56 Village, Corentyne

As the administration continues to move towards a modern Guyana,  today the rice local rice industry saw the opening of its first ever seed cleaning facility.

Head of State, Donald Ramotar earlier joined Minister of Agriculture Dr. Leslie Ramsammy and officials from the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) and the Rice Producers Association (RPA) for the auspicious event.

The President said, “It gives me great pleasure to be here to commission this plant which will make a contribution to our country and also to Region Six.”

This venture, the President said is reflective of government’s commitment to investing in every sector to fully modernise the country’s growing economy.

President Ramotar pointed to the fact that over the years his administration has been investing heavily in the rice industry, moving Guyana from a place where it once imported rice for local use to one  where its export market is very high.

“Over the years, we have been investing heavily in the different kinds of infrastructure, the work we are doing in research, I want to congratulate the scientists…  in 1990 the rice industry was reduced to producing only 90,000 tons of rice a year and we were importing rice,” he reminded.

The Head of State also recalled that at one time Italy was giving assistance to Guyana by supplying it with rice.

“Now we have reached the stage where we are producing enough. Farmers must be congratulated… why we have been able to improve production is the fact that the government has been investing heavily in the industry over the years.”

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The gathering at the commissioning of the Number 56 Village rice seed facility

According to President Ramotar, the administration over the past ten years has spent in excess of $45 B on drainage and irrigation which can be considered one of the most important aspects of   agriculture.

Mention was also made of the many farming communities including Bengal, Rose Hall, Numbers 43 and 66 and several others which have benefitted from drainage and irrigation structures including pump stations.

Further, while acknowledging the fact that the industry has made significant contributions to the local economy, President Ramotar said he is aware of the challenges facing the industry, the main one being price for paddy.

“…We are price takers and we don’t determine rice prices and what we constantly do is look for higher pricing markets for our farmers.” It is for this reason, he said the government is exploring other markets in Central America and Africa.

President Ramotar also spoke of his government’s plan to put a mechanism in place for price support to rice farmers in the future.

He also took the opportunity to emphasise to farmers the importance of adding value to their products which all starts with the quality of seeds they cultivate.

Citing the soon to be commissioned rice cereal factory on the Essequibo Coast, President Ramotar said it is his administration’s plan to have similar initiatives,  and is even looking at manufacturing of other products including rice flour.

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President Donald Ramotar and Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy unveil the plaque to the Number 56 Village rice seed facility‎. Also in photo are Head, Guyana Rice Development Board, Jagnarine Singh and Head of the Guyana Rice Producers Association, Dharamkumar Seeraj

Touching on the area of reducing production cost in the rice industry, President Ramotar said it is his hope that other millers will move towards using the gasifier mechanism which has already been successfully operating at a mill on the Essequibo Coast.

“For all of these plans to be a reality, we need good quality planting materials. The rice industry has a very bright future and its importance continues to grow,” the President stated.

This seed cleaning facility was in the making since 2004, and the design was agreed on in 2011. However, after some hiccups with the contractor, the GRDB stepped in and completed the $70M facility.

CONTINUED SUPPORT TO GUYANA’S AGRICULTURE SECTOR UNDER THE APP PROJECT

Guyana’s livestock sector received a further boost of US$40,000 from the Agricultural Policy Programme (APP) with the signing of an agreement between the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA) to support targeted actions in production, nutrition and value addition of the small ruminant sub-sector.

The Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, and Ambassador of the Delegation to the European Union to Guyana, HE Robert Kopecky, participated in the simple ceremony at the Ministry of Agriculture and witnessed the signing of the Agreement by Mr Bruce Lauckner, Executive Director (Ag) of CARDI and Dr Dindyal Permaul, Chief Executive Officer of the GLDA. Also in attendance were Mr Wilmot Garnett, Representative of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA) to Guyana, Ms Nisa Surujbally, Progamme Manager – Agriculture and Industry of the CARICOM Secretariat, and Ms Taryn De Mendonca, Technical Coordinator for the APP at the CARICOM Secretariat.

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The APP is funded by the 10th European Union Development Fund through a Financing Agreement between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Secretariat.

The CARIFORUM Directorate is responsible for overall coordination and monitoring of the Caribbean Action of the APP, valued at 8.6M Euros, while IICA is responsible for implementation and coordination of all activities in collaboration with the implementing partners, the CARICOM Secretariat and CARDI.

The APP aims to provide critical support to enhance rural incomes and livelihoods, food security, and develop rural communities. The Caribbean Action comprises three components which are addressing three fundamental areas of developmental concern;

  • Strengthening regional agricultural development strategy (Component 1, administered by the CARICOM Secretariat),
  • Improving dissemination and adoption of applied research and appropriate technologies, including agriculture – oriented measures in disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation (Component 2, administered by CARDI), and
  • Enterprise development under improved market linkages (Component 3, administered by IICA)

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Minister Ramsammy expressed his satisfaction with this latest initiative under the APP and stated that Guyana’s small ruminant sector has been gaining ground in recent times with the establishment of several small farmer organisations focused on integrating their efforts to expand the industry by improving their management practices, adopting new technologies and running their operations as businesses. Noting that the Region imports more than 70% of its consumption of mutton, Minister Ramsammy indicated that the small ruminant industry has a pivotal role to play in the development of the agricultural sector. In this regard, he was convinced that Guyana can be a leader in reducing the food import bill.

The need for the Region to address food security and the food import bill through focused initiatives in agriculture was emphasised by Mr Lauckner. CARDI commended the CARICOM Secretariat for its guidance in determining the regional policy framework for Agriculture including identification of priority commodities. As the lead agency to develop the small ruminant sector, CARDI was pleased to establish the Agreement with the GLDA to implement programmes that are relevant to the expansion of production in Guyana. Mr Lauckner expressed appreciation to the IICA office in Guyana for its facilitative role in finalising the Agreement and for the assistance it has agreed to render in the financial management and reporting thereafter.

Ambassador Kopecky also expressed his satisfaction with the effort to develop the small ruminant industry in Guyana and CARICOM, utilising resources under the APP, in an integrated approach through collaboration of the implementing partners in the areas of policy, technology transfer and marketing. The EU, he advised, is mindful of the challenges that face the agricultural sector and will be very much looking forward to witnessing its transformation through implementation of the APP.

Agriculture Ministry launches coconut training programme with Mexican support– to boost stakeholders’ knowledge

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A section of the gathering at the Guyana and Mexico coconut training programme

Diversification has been a major issue on the Ministry of Agriculture’s agenda, as the government sees it as an easy way to cushion unexpected losses in one area of the market, while also earning a little extra income. In this regard, the ministry, through bilateral cooperation with Mexico, today launched a three-day coconut training programme, at the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA), Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara.

          The sessions will focus on sustainability, a renewed emphasis, improving competitiveness, and maximizing benefits to stakeholders in the coconut industry. 

            Dr. Oudho Homenauth, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), who was also the chairperson of the event, pointed out that the sessions will allow the participants to access quality planting materials, identify various value added coconut products, and have a wider knowledge of the industry.

Behind rice and sugar, coconut is the next largest agricultural land occupant country wide, making it ideal for diversification.

            Dr. Homenauth further noted that there is heavy focus on this product, not only in Guyana, but in the entire Caribbean region.  That is why the government is trying to create a coconut industry instead of small commodities, he added.

            Meanwhile, Mr. Wilmot Garnett, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) Guyana Representative said that “investing in coconut in Guyana can lead to a highly profitable business. The coconut industry in Guyana ranks next to rice and sugar in terms of land area…in excess of 25000 hectares, representing both productive as well as abundant growth.” 

            Garnett also pointed out that this programme is a revitalization one that has seen collaboration among the ministry, Mexico, and the IICA, explaining that it will be expanded in the future.

            He also reiterated that some of the challenges that the industry has faced include poor drainage, access to certified planting materials, and high cost of production inputs. However, the sessions are serving to address these issues by educating individuals on cost effective practices that can provide solutions to some of these problems.

            He further encouraged the attendees to actively participate in the sessions and to try as much as possible to learn the most they can.   

            In addition, Gabriel Ferrer, Representative of the Mexican Embassy, expressed gratitude on behalf of his country, and emphasized the strength of the bilateral relations that the two countries share, noting that the partnership began in 1973.

            He said “at a bilateral level, a Technical and Scientific Cooperation Agreement was signed between Guyana and Mexico in 1966. A CARICOM-Mexico Cooperation Programme is in effect at the Regional level….IICA and the Mexican Secretariat of Agriculture (SAGARPA) developed training programme, aimed at promoting human capacities, to improve the productivity of Caribbean agriculture.”

            He added that he is certain that this programme will be of great interest and huge benefit to Guyana.

            Also present at the ceremony was Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, George Jervis, who said that this programme is a follow- up to a regional consultancy that was done in 2014, to identify the deficiencies in the project.

            Further he noted that the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) will see a significant sum of money being invested in Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Belize for the operationalistion of key areas covered in the training session. He added that Guyana will be the leading country in this regard.

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Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, George Jervis sharing his knowledge with the gathering at the Ministry of Agriculture’s coconut training programme launch

He pointed out that there are a lot of value added products that can be derived from this industry, and that lately there is a new “buzz,” that coconut oil can be used for medicinal purposes.

            Jarvis imparted his knowledge with the gathering, through several stories about when he started his career in agriculture, particularly and coincidentally in the area of coconut cultivation.

            In closing, he encouraged the participants to make the best of the training, to ensure that their products will be of  a high quality, upholding the standards that the ministry is putting in place.

            Among the gathering of stakeholders at the ceremony were Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) representatives.

Nine cane harvesters hospitalised after accident at Albion backdam

Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, Health Minister Dr Bheri Ramsaran and Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy  this morning visited the cane harvesters who were injured following an accident at the Albion Estate backdam, and interacted with their families.

 Minister Ramsaran told the Government Information Agency that a Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco) truck was negotiating a steep incline in the backdam in Albion, Region Six, when an accident occurred. The truck at the time was transporting 60 cane harvesters to work. Twenty-one of these were seen and nine were admitted with no life threatening injuries, the Minister said.

            Both officials recognised the efforts of the New Amsterdam Hospital and the staff to deal with the injured. The facility was well equipped with adequate staff and medication to treat with the situation.  The patients will be reviewed later in the day and probably be discharged. 

            They were initially taken to the Port Mourant Hospital, but later transferred to the New Amsterdam Hospital.

 

Rice development- a laudable success story – no validity in what is being peddled- Minister Ramsammy

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Varying brands of Guyanese rice

Amidst criticisms over the rice industry, Minister of Agriculture Dr. Leslie Ramsammy has debunked detractors when he expounded on the success of the sector, tracing the amazing recovering of the industry, all the way to its present status, under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government.

 

PPP’s early success not maintained by PNC 

The minister, speaking during a recent interview on the National Communications Network,  first recounted how early post-Independence Guyana fared well within the rice sector, declaring that 200, 000 tonnes were achieved in 1964, and for the first time, 100,000 tonnes were exported in that same year and that was during the 1957, 1964 PPP government.

There was a drop from this lofty height, and according to Dr. Ramsammy, Guyana did not reach 200,000 tonnes again in production until 1995, and indeed “we only reach 100,000 tonnes in export once between 1964 and 1992.” In other words, the minister clearly portrayed that with the People’ National Congress (PNC), rice crumbled, as only in 1978, Guyana managed to export 104,000 tonnes.

However, barring this lone bright spot, the PNC allowed the sector to become virtually dead, but since 1992, “rice has just parachuted upwards, and we now have a production of 635,000 tonnes last year, that is a number that just ten years ago, people said was impossible for Guyana, and so far for this crop of 2015, when we have so far harvested 25 per cent of the crop, if the production continues to the end of this first crop, we will produce more than 350,000 tonnes of rice, which is more in one crop than we did anytime in the period before 1992.”

 

Irrefutable success 

In January of this year, 45,000 tonnes were exported which is more in this first quarter than had been exported anytime between 1964 and 1992, in a year, irrefutable evidence that the industry has flourished. Overall, in 2014, the country exported 501,000 tonnes.

He elaborated that in Essequibo, Guyana is producing more rice now than at any other time in history. Figures show that by 1990, “we were only cultivating about 30,000 acres, but now, we are cultivating in Essequibo (alone) around 38,000 hectares (one hectare is 2.47 acres).

Minister Ramsammy detailed, after compiling the figures, there was growth of more than 100 per cent. He also mentioned that the success is more than numbers as before 1992, in Essequibo more than half of the rice produced was by one entity, Kayman Sankar Group of Companies, but that today, 100 per cent of the production in Essequibo comes from thousands of farmers. This takes the success of rice into a new dimension where monopoly and exploitation were erased.

This important dimension is sometimes missed by the opposition, but he challenged that “people take a step back and recognise that indeed before 1992, we had very few mills in the country, and that production was not there to support the mills.”

He recapped that at this juncture, there was little to show in terms of infrastructure, but that today there are large mills and whether it’s Essequibo, Regions Three, Four, Five or Six, there are mills that produce quality rice that could enter any market in the world.

For example, the minister referred to the Venezuelan market that excites everyone, but showed that “if we had this market in 1992, we could not sell to Venezuela, because the quality of the mills that we had could not process paddy to produce the rice that Venezuela buys.”

He added that virtually all of the paddy that is produced in Essequibo can meet the quality that is required and in every way whatsoever.

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Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy

Government’s role 

Minister Ramsammy rubbished the opposition’s idea that ‘the government should step aside’ and that ‘rice is a private sector business.’ He poignantly queried: “Will the farmers invest in all of this?” He made it clear that the government has a role to accommodate the growth of the industry, and if these investments it is making were to be removed, then rice would die again.

He cited during the dry season, the irrigation pumps have to provide the water as a public good. He pointed out that the pumps, which were established by the late Dr.Cheddi Jagan in 1957 and 1964, were either disabled or mal-functioning during the tenure of the PNC, but “the PPP/C government did resuscitation work, and so today, even in an extreme dry season, we may not be able to give the farmers all the water they want, but we meet their demands, so that the rice industry is not destroyed.”

At present government is building a pump station at Lima, and even though a pump station was put in at Three Friends a new one is being budgeted for. The minister added that not only the ‘pump inputs’ but also work on the main canal, linking the conservancy, had to be seriously worked on, as “this was almost non-functional, and all the head regulators were disabled.”

Dr. Ramsammy mentioned that under an Inter American Development Bank loan, this government replaced all of the head regulators, and has maintained the main canals, even as “those very maintenance activities are continuing to be an issue with the opposition.”

 

Market availability 

Before 1992, Guyana only sold rice to a few European countries and some in the Caribbean. He tied this reality to the fact that during these years, Guyana did not need more (markets) because the production was low, sufficing for the few markets. Conversely, the minister declared that the market size then could not take up even half of a crop of current production.

Today, the minister detailed, production and market are in great equilibrium and now “we export to more European countries than we have ever done before, we export to more Caribbean countries, because some Caribbean countries were buying rice from the US and are now buying from Guyana, we export to more South American countries, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, we export to Central America, which we never did before and not just Panama, we export to Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and as we speak, we at the conclusion of the  arrangement with African countries.”

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Locally produced rice on the shelves of the Guyana Shop

He noted too that that the business and economic sides of this kind of large-scale export are well taken care off and that “draft contracts are available for these new countries, and we are looking at the banking arrangements to make sure that we get paid.”

The expanded market, explained the minister, means that “all our eggs are not in one basket” and that Guyana has to always be prepared, that if something should go wrong in one place that the industry will not crumble.  

 

Value – added rice 

Minister Ramsammy paid tribute to the government’s prudence where the rice sector is concerned, in that there were calculated moves to ensure that quantity, quality and variety be amalgamated.

Since 1995 to now, the country has produced 14 new varieties of rice, paddy for Guyana, and recently, “we introduced GRDB 14, and in 300 acres, where it is now on farmer’s plot, including in Essequibo, and the average is between 55 and 60 bags per acre, GRDB 13 is the aromatic rice, and GRDB 12, 11, 10 are still very popular across Guyana.”

In sharp contrast, the minister noted that before 1992, this was not possible. He recalled the Rustic (the extra-long grain, high quality locally developed rice variety) that was developed by an Indian scientist in Guyana, but this contribution under the then PNC government was short-lived, as the PNC revoked his visa and sent him home.

 

No validity in what is peddled 

Minister Ramsammy advised that when there are criticisms from the opposition, stating that “we have high production but no markets, they ignore the fact that last year we sold 501,000 tonnes and we had 33 countries,” and therefore there is no validity to what is being peddled.

He further elaborated that people need to realise that rice is one of the most common commodities in the world, but many of these markets demand high quality rice, and this means that millers must ensure that they are sending the best quality of rice, or their reputation will be affected. This, he said is what recently obtained with Alesie, having shipped substandard rice to Chile, and this had a huge negative impact, as it harmed Guyana’s reputation.

He singled out Mr. Turhane Doerga, “as having done Guyana a disservice, by jeopardising that particular market, and now we have to go and make sure we do everything, so we are starting back this year from scratch, and we have to go and make sure we bring rice into Chile and show them that Guyana has high quality rice, and they should not nurture an image in their mind that Guyana’s rice is just bricks, wood chips.”

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A vendor at his stall in the Bourda Market offering different types of locally produced brown rice

The minister also recalled that Mr. Doerga had a questionable entry into the rice sector. He traced the fact that under the PNC, Anna Regina, Somerset, Berks, Black Bush, Wakenaam, and in fact the entire major mills, except Kayman Sankar, were owned by the government.  At this juncture, Mr. Doerga came to Guyana, and “Mr. Desmond Hoyte literally handed him over the rice industry, and I don’t know how much he paid, I don’t know if he paid,” but he afterward kept borrowing money, and “I think the amount of money was around US $34 M.”

This irresponsible and spendthrift approach led to a 2006 Florida litigation against Mr. Doerga, as “he was taken to court, because he had not paid back his money, and that court decision was an interim judgment for $8 M, and then in 2013, there was another court judgment for another $12 M, plus interest, and later in 2013, an order from the judge was for the arrest Mr. Doerga anytime he appears in Florida.”

In wrapping up his arguments, the minister appealed to Guyanese and rice farmers in particular, that they be careful of persons who spread all kinds of stories and confuse their minds.

READ project ends – leaves its mark on small scale producers -Minister Ramsammy

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Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy listens as an exhibitor explains something to him

The six- year Rural Enterprise and Agricultural Development (READ) project whose main goal has been to improve the living conditions of poor households, especially small scale producers and vulnerable groups, thereby increasing their human, social, organisational and financial assets, has concluded.

 Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy told farmers today at an exhibition to mark the end of the project that was financed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and implemented by the government and the Agriculture Ministry’s Agricultural Sector Development Unit (ASDU) that the project has impacted small producers.

The beneficiaries of the READ project were entrepreneurs, agro processors, producers and enterprise owners from Regions Two, Three, Four, Five, Six and Ten.

            Minister Ramsammy, speaking at the event held at the Guyana International Conference Centre,  observed that in Guyana “…we have lived as a ‘least developed’ country and we are now a middle income country, our next stop is a high middle income country, and that will happen because Guyana has good farmers.”

 He noted too, that the closing of the READ event has shown the many successes which have come about since the government has shown a willingness to invest in small farmers. In the process, it achieved the support of IFAD, although initially it did not seem that the programme would have been successful. However, much has happened under new leadership in the programme.

The new leadership was brought into the programme through the late Vimala Balgobin, who understood its vision. The minister stated that Vimala understood her job and knew what had to be done and she was doing it. He observed that IFAD had wanted a numeracy programme in Parika Backdam and he suggested that it would be better to build a bridge instead.

Graduating at the top of her class with an MBA, Vimala demonstrated to the young people in Guyana that there was much scope to develop here. “Your best tribute to Vimala is to ensure that your organisation and business continue to prosper,” he stated. Vimala died recently during a vehicular accident on the trail to Lethem.

Minister Ramsammy observed that farming is one of the most important businesses in the world, adding that “For far too long in our country, we have treated farming and farmers as peasants…the truth is they feed our country and our world.” The 2005 flood had a crippling impact on the country’s agriculture, he noted, and urged the farmers that as business people, they should use farming and agriculture to promote their businesses.

The READ project recognised the many small groups which need support, and the efforts of government to promote agriculture do not end with the project.

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Minister of Agriculture Dr. Leslie Ramsammy listens as this woman explains the product he holds in his hand

He has instructed the Permanent Secretary George Jervis to ensure that the READ staff do not disappear from the ministry and that they will find ways to help the farmers to succeed through the linking of producers and buyers, since businesses collapse if there is no one to buy. The fact that more than 32 countries around the world are buying rice from Guyana is what makes this successful, he indicated.

Agriculture in Guyana cannot be merely to meet food security; it has to be an export industry the minister insisted. However, farmers should get registered with the Food and Drug Agency. He explained that in Guyana, some things can be grown better than in other countries, and with better seeds and better breeds of animals and better feeding mechanisms, things can go even further. This is what Government is trying to do which will reduce the cost of production.

He also pointed out that farmers are not earning much from their crops and the new work that the ministry is doing is to link the farmers directly to the consumer, who will pay the farmers. The READ staff will now become facilitators, who will make the links. He added that the Guyana Marketing Corporation will become the avenue for Guyana’s goods and will create contacts. Moving from subsistence to genuine businesses will see that every farm will be registered if the products are to be sold to hotels in Guyana. Whilst hotels have to demonstrate that they are buying safe food, farms will have to be registered.

The minister also noted that whilst raw material should be converted into processed goods and packaged to international standards so that they can compete with brands from around the world. “…we have to start with us, by buying from us…we got to make sure that we support our own,” Minister Ramsammy posited.

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Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy addresses farmers at the Guyana International Conference Centre

He made reference to a value-added workshop held by Arnold Mendonca from the Inter American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) from which farmers learnt to make sausages among other products.  He said they could do so safely and be certified and take it to the hotels. “…we could build the enterprise, farming remains our best opportunity to elevate our lives and grow our economy.”

Whilst Guyana’s economy will have to be diversified through oil and gas and ICT and services which would all become part of it, “…the pillar has been and will be agriculture. I believe that farming is a fledgling business, ready to take off as an important contributor to the development of our country and the Caribbean,” the minister stated.

He observed that of the US$5B spent by the Caribbean on food imports, Guyana could provide much of that food. This money should go to Guyanese farmers for chicken, mutton and lamb. He added that it is his belief that some of Guyana’s meat should be processed instead of purchasing them from outside.

 “We should, by the end of this year, be purchasing carrots from local manufacturers, and only blended flour should be used in all commercial enterprises which mean that a certain percentage should be blended with wheat flour,” he added.

            Meanwhile, members of the groups who were present lauded the READ project which helped them significantly. Among them were Marsha Williams of the Mainstay Village Council Farmers’ Group; Denise Thomas of the Kuru Kuru Farmers’ Crops and Livestock Association; Jived Ishmael of the West Berbice Sheep and Goat Farmers’ Association; Dhaniram Ramchand of the Bath Referendum Farmers’ Group and Paula Marks of the Young Women’s Christian Association. 

 

New FAO Country Representative to Guyana present credentials to Agri. Minister

-plans to continue foster ties to push agriculture in the region

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Country Representative to Guyana Mr. Reuben Hamilton Robertson today presented his letters of Credence to Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy.
The newly appointed FAO representative during brief discussions with Dr. Ramsammy spoke of ways in which the FAO can work closely with the Ministry of Agriculture to further push agriculture in the Region.
Among the areas of interest discussed were Agro-Processing, Value Added and Disaster Risk Management.

FAO Country Representative present his Letters of Credence   to Dr. Ramsammy

FAO Country Representative present his Letters of Credence   to Dr. Ramsammy

                     “The success of any DRM program depends on coordination and continuous monitoring and this is one of the areas FAO is excited to be working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, ” he said.
Enhanced focus was placed on the Ministry 2013/2020 strategy which targeted the F5 approach in agriculture- Food, Fiber, Fuel, Fashion and Furniture. According to Robertson, such efforts will see Guyana reducing its imports in a major way.
Mr. Robertson’s work as the new Country Representative will be to not only enhance relations but to strengthen coordination to further push agriculture in Region.

 

Government keen on pursing alternative energy sources- President – commissions gasifier in Essequibo

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President Donald and other officials commissioning the gasifier at Ramlakhan and Sons Rice Mill at Exmouth, Essequibo

The move by a rice farmer to take up a challenge by government, to explore the use of alternative energy sources was welcomed President Donald Ramotar.

        The president visited the Ramlakhan and Sons Rice Mill, located at Exmouth, Essequibo Coast, on March 21, for a firsthand look at  rice miller Ramesh Ramlakhan’s operations. The miller has invested approximately $40 million in an effort to reduce the cost of fuel consumption at his mill. The plant which arrived late last year, has already undergone installation and successful testing. The state -of -the- art unit works with the gases derived from the rice husk. The gases emitted are cleaned of solid particles, tar/carbon and water/moisture, and directed into the combustion chambers of a 250 kW power generation set, replacing 70 per cent of the diesel normally required.

     According to Ramlakhan, the gasifier would greatly reduce his energy costs, improve his market viability and also allow him to keep paying a competitive price to farmers for their paddy, making sure they stay profitable.

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The gasifier at Ramlakhan and Sons Rice Mill at Exmouth, Essequibo 

Government views energy management and conservation as an important tool to ensure the rice industry meets critical objectives for short and long – term goals.      Enhanced energy efficient technologies for design and profits of rice mills have been identified to improve energy efficiency, lower the industry’s dependence on fossil fuel, reduce the environmental impact, reduce carbon emissions and lower production costs.

 

During his state visit to India earlier this year, President Ramotar discussed the use of such technology to improve efficiency and reduce operations costs in various sectors using alternative energy sources such as the  gasifier and bio-fuels.

 

Rice cereal factory to create jobs for over 200 Essequibians – President turns sod for facility at Anna Regina

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More than 200 jobs will be created for persons living along the Essequibo Coast in the near future with the establishment of the Institute of Applied Science and Technology’s (IAST) $100M rice cereal factory. The rice cereal is branded ‘Morning Glory’.

Head of State, Donald Ramotar and other senior government functionaries today turned the sod at Anna Regina, Essequibo for the factory. The IAST also launched its latest line of local product, a nutrition bar at the ceremony.

 President Ramotar lauded the initiative as he noted that this is a step in the right direction to add value to rice and rice products.

“We are meeting today at a very happy and important occasion to launch the construction of a factory to produce in the first instance rice cereal, and the first step to add value to our product”.

Citing how important this initiative is for Guyana as a whole, President Ramotar pointed to the fact that Guyana being a rice producing country is fundamentally a price taker.

This is in spite of the fact that local rice production has grown tremendously over the years from 90,000 tons in 1990s to more than 600,000 tons today.

This figure, the President said, makes Guyana very big in its own context, but when compared to the world market, Guyana is just a small player.

“We therefore are price takers, we do not determine prices, we do not determine world prices, we take the price that the world has and that is why in order to ensure that we insulate ourselves from the external shocks that come about when prices internally fall, it is important for us to add value to the products.”

 He said, “This is one of the areas in which we can add value to our product and because this will be produced not from high quality rice, but this can be produced from the broken (rice) and still fetches a good price on the local and international market.”

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The location where the rice cereal factory will be established

Being optimistic about this project, President Ramotar said more business minds from the private sector should follow suit.

“…And I hope it will serve as an example for the private sector to invest in other areas… (I) hope it will have a demonstration effect.”

The Head of State also took the time to assure the rice industry that his administration will always stand by it even amidst calls by the opposition for the administration to step away.

“I’m promising you now and, of the future that every PPP/C government will defend and uphold the rice industry so that we can get a better quality of life from it.”

Meanwhile Commerce Minister, Irfaan Ali also hailed the project a success even in the face of criticisms by the opposition who said it was merely a dream. Ali said this sod turning clearly indicates that it is a dream that has come to pass, and even great world leaders had dreams which also materalised.

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President Donald Ramotar holds aloft a box of the cereal ‘Morning Glory’

Noting his government’s confidence in this initiative, Minister Ali said he is sure that it will be a success story even though there will be some challenges, one of which is cheap electricity. He said this will eventually be dealt with as the administration is pushing ahead with plans for the Amaila Falls Hydro Project.

Giving some insight on the project was head of the IAST, Professor Suresh Narine. He said this initiative aims to produce food at the very basic level and most of the intended markets will be locally, the Caribbean and further afield.

“This means that what we produce must be of a very high quality and you know anybody can make a thing, it takes tremendous effort and effort of an entire community to make a good thing, and that is what we have to focus on here now.”

This facility will have the initial capacity to process 2,000 tons of rice per year however; it is also being built in such a way that if the market that is being targeted grows it can easily be expanded.

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President Donald Ramotar, Commerce Minister Irfaan Ali and Head, IAST, Professor Suresh Narine turn the sod for the rice cereal factory

According to Professor Narine, the plants in the factory have already been made in such a way that they can be expanded to utilise 30,000 tons of rice annually.

Upon completion the factory will employ some 105 persons who will work one shift and over a period of time a three- shift system will be introduced, thereby paving the way for more than 200 persons to be employed.

Within another four weeks, training of persons eligible to work in the factory will begin after which they will be presented with a food handler’s certificate so by the time the factory is completed there will be a trained and equipped work force to take up employment.

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The gathering at the launch of the rice cereal factory in Essequibo, Region Two

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Essequibians sampling  the rice cereal