President visits flood hit Essequibo coast, assures residents that relief is in sight

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.

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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”.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Minister Leslie Ramsammy congratulates GUYSUCO on reaching its production target

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.

God Bless.

 

Export Surpass 500,000 Tonnes

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.

APNU EXPOSES ITSELF AS HAVING NO IDEA ABOUT THE RICE INDUSTRY

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

Government intervenes further to bring relief to rice farmers

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.

Experimental plots of new rice varieties

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.

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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.

Hope Canal’s success, should inspire greater partnership, confidence in Guyana’s young professionals-Minister Ramsammy

 

The East Demerara Water Conservancy’s, Hope Canal project is more than just about boosting Guyana’s drainage capacity and flood relief effort. The project can also be seen as an example of local engineering ingenuity and skills.

This is according to Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, who said that the project, which many viewed as almost impossible, and which was heavily criticised, is almost operational. The Minister expressed the hope that the project’s success brings a new spirit of cooperation in the eventual realisation of its full potential.

Young Guyanese professionals

During a site visit to the project today, the Minister noted that the entire project has been under intense scrutiny and criticism, and by very experienced professionals. “We are thankful for their ideas, we are thankful for their input, but sometimes we all have to come together when we are doing important things, things that are needed, things that are new,” the Minister said.

 “Guyana will not be able to stand as is,” he noted for, “if we are going to progress we will have to bring new things that many of the young engineers may not have had experience with, but so too have the old experienced professionals.”

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The Minister said that he is proud of what the young engineers and contractors have accomplished.  “Even though we have not operationalised the canal as yet, we see that we have completed a project that many people thought was not possible,” he said. “I hope now that people have seen what they thought was not possible indeed is possible that we will have a lot more partnership in seeing the realisation of the potential for this canal, and that  we will have greater confidence in the young cadre of professionals  that we have coming up in Guyana,” he added.

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Whilst the project benefitted from the input of people abroad, it was conceptualised, designed and constructed by Guyanese professionals, particularly young Guyanese and this is what Guyanese should take a moment to appreciate and to reflect on how far Guyana has progressed. He noted that 20 years ago such a project like this would not have been possible in Guyana. “Even if we conceptualised it then, we would have had to bring in international consultants, international engineers to design and even bring international contracting firms. This thing was built by a Guyanese contracting firm with Guyanese staff and was designed and put into place by Guyanese professionals,” he pointed out.

Accompanying Minister Ramsammy on the site visit was Chief Executive Officer (CEO,) of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA,) Lionel Wordsworth, who noted that the NDIA is currently concluding some remaining aspects of works on both the canal and the high level discharge sluice, for the December 31 deadline.

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Eight gates

Wordsworth said that the super structure of the high-level sluice will be completed tomorrow. He noted that the eight gates are already in place and what would follow are the installation of the lifting mechanism, the cementing of the very top and the construction of a control room, all of which are expected to be tied up by year- end. All that will remain is some landscaping work that will be done in the new year.

Wordsworth said that at the head regulator, during the week, the engineers started opening and closing the gates, “Not allowing water to come through, but to make sure that it closes freely the way we want to before we make that final cut in the conservancy dam to make that connection to allow water to come into the channels,” he explained. The lifting mechanisms are being installed and, “as we are completing them, we start a process of operationalisation by opening and closing the gates.”

The engineers are also working on connecting the canal itself to the two other structures. “We would have had in place, whilst construction was going on, some accesses across the channel to allow movement of equipment, fuel and such, and we are now in the process of removing those and tying the  embankment to the bridge, and of course the high level discharge sluice,” Wordsworth explained.

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He pointed out that this really is the last aspect of the embankment work because what this means is that engineers are making the entire embankment continuous from the head regulator to the high level discharge sluice.

Wordsworth explained too that the weigh levee limit of the project (the entire limit that covers the channel, the embankment etc) on the eastern side, is in alignment with an existing access road. This means that the embankment on the eastern side of the channel will be built on this existing road.

Wordsworth said that the NDIA is working with the Ministry of Housing, and that there is already a plan to reroute this access area, whereby an alternative internal road would be constructed. He said that this will be done very shortly, and the section of the embankment (which is about 200 meters) that falls within the precincts of the existing road will be completed.

All the super structure of the Hope Canal project is set to be completed by December 31. The project itself will become operationalised in early 2015.

The $3.6B, four-component project comprises a channel, a high-level sluice outfall structure, a conservancy head regulator and a public bridge. The latter was completed and commissioned in February of this year.

On completion, the channel will join the conservancy at a point on its north-eastern embankment, cutting across 10.3km of the coast to spill directly into the Atlantic Ocean.  The excess water from the conservancy will drain into the canal via the three-door sluice at that end, and run along the excavated channel and spilling into the Atlantic via the eight-door high-discharge sluice structure.

2014… Agriculture sector on target to be highest GDP contributor

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.

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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.

01New pump station at Patentia Region Three

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.

GIS/GPS Capacity

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.

01President Donald Ramotar looking through a microscope at one of the new  labs

 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.

Rice

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.

01The Enterprise Pump Station

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.

  • Sugar

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.

01The recently commissioned Biological Control Lab at Mon Repos

The recently commissioned Biological Control Lab at Mon Repos

New crops                                          

 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.

  • Livestock

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.

 

Agriculture has been leading force in Guyana’s years of economic growth – Minister Ramsammy

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.

Projections

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)

Trinidad investors scoping Guyana Agricultural lands; local Farmers shouldn’t be worried

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.

tt investor 1 Agriculture Ministers of Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago respectively Hon, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy and Hon Devant Maharaj

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.”

trndiad team 2

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)

 

 

FAO donates computers to GMC – to boost market information system

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”.


DSC_0629

 

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.

DSC_0635

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.

DSC_0633

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.

DSC_0634

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.