Guyana has the ability to produce high volumes of rice; however, the cost of production impedes the country’s ability to compete with the world market, Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder explained during his presentation at the National Budget Debate last evening.
The Minister, while updating the National Assembly on developments and challenges in the agriculture sector, said the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) is indispensable in providing some answers. The GRDB is the research and extension arm of the Ministry of Agriculture.
He explained that the Guyana Rice Producers Association (GRPA) has an extremely important role to play ‘and not play politics since one would expect that they all share common interests such as the viability and sustainability of the rice industry.’
Minister Holder admitted there are some major challenges in the rice industry which need to be addressed. The GRDB will be enhancing its capabilities this year. Research in plant breeding will be done with the aim of having increased yields for local varieties. New aromatic varieties will also be developed, supporting the expansion of the production of the GRDB 13.
Regarding the marketing aspect, Minister Holder said that trade will be a key element in the sustainable development of the rice industry. “This Government will continue to make investments that are necessary to fully support the agricultural sector. Guyana has been exporting rice consistently for over 100 years… continuing the export growth that the rice industry has experienced over the past five years, existing markets will be maintained whilst new markets will be pursued.”
A new market for paddy is being pursued in Mexico, whilst additional markets for both paddy and rice are being sought in Europe and other countries.
Meanwhile, aromatic rice is currently being traded at US$700-$1200 per tonne as compared with regular rice which is sold at US$350-$450 per tonne. This could very well carve the future directions for rice production and trade for Guyana as it has a significantly higher market price, Holder noted. The GRDB 13 is aromatic specie of rice.
GRDB will continue to monitor the supply and prices of fertilizers and chemicals and will pursue avenues of having these inputs available to farmers at competitive prices.
Rice has been heavily affected by the present El Nino conditions. “The lack of water is the main reason we will be experiencing an 8.4% decline in the industry in 2016. For instance, in Spring Crop 2015, hectares sown was 97,628ha, however as at February 1, we have only sown 73,337 ha, this represent a decline of 33%,” Minister Holder told the House.
For those heavily affected areas, interventions are being made by the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) and the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary Agricultural Development Authority (MMA/ADA) to overcome these obstacles.