“Agriculture in Focus”; a feature written as part of Agriculture Month 2016.
During the month of October, the Ministry of Agriculture will be observing agriculture month under the theme “Exploring new production frontiers: in pursuit if climate resilience”. During the month of October, the Ministry of Agriculture will be ramping up its efforts to transform Guyana’s Agriculture development trajectory; as the sector remains the most powerful social and economic tool to eliminate poverty and hunger, and generate wealth.
Agriculture remains one of the largest areas of investment in Guyana’s economy; with more than $50B invested in current expenditure annually by small and large farming enterprises. Since May of 2015, the Ministry of Agriculture, has been making significant strides in its efforts to correct the many deficiencies standing in the way of the sector realizing its full potential.
Over the last eight months the Ministry of Agriculture has been placing major emphasis on agricultural development in the hinterland to set the ground work for major agricultural investments. While the implementation of agricultural initiatives within the Hinterland are not new, the Ministry of Agriculture is adopting a new and focused approach; expanding existing initiatives where possible and initiating new initiatives based on lessons learnt and from needs assessment.
The main highlights of the Plan include: Enhanced Crop Production (Increased Rice production and Orchard Development); Fisheries Development (primarily Inland fisheries and Aquaculture); Livestock Development and Training (Construction of Dormitory and Model Farm).
The sector despite much work being injected, continues to be plagued by many obstacles to development. Among those are limited financing and inadequate new investments, outdated and inefficient agricultural health and food safety systems, inadequate research and development, a fragmented and unorganized private sector, inefficient land and water distribution management systems, deficient and uncoordinated risk management measures, inadequate transportation systems, particularly for agricultural products, market infrastructure, including market information and market linkages and lack of skilled and quality human resources in agriculture.
One major investment in the intermediate savannahs is by the Brazilian firm New Frontier Agriculture at Ebini – the company is set to commence the cultivation of an initial 200 acres of soybean. Several other large scale investors have also indicated interest in the Intermediate and Rupununi Savannahs and movement in this area is expected within months. Over the last six months the Agriculture Ministry led by Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder has been visiting not only Region 9 and 10, but Region 1, where significant development potential in agriculture has been recognised and will be pursued.
National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI)
Over the next several years, and as part of its mandate, NAREI will place focus on Crop Production and corresponding infrastructural development. During the first year, proposed development projects will occur in the following areas: Ebini, Hosororo (Region 1) and Kato (Region 8).
Within the Ebini area in Region 10, Crop production initiatives will focus on orchard expansion. Within Region 1 (Hosororo) focus will be placed on Orchard expansion and nursery renovation while in Region 8 (Kato), activities will include establishment of farms, with corresponding irrigation system; the latter to benefit technical assistance from NDIA and Hydromet Services, as required.
Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB)
The GRDB’s mandate will be on the resuscitation of the Rice and Beans Project in Moco Moco, Rupununi, and Region 9. This project was funded by the Spanish and Guyana Governments via the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation for Development and Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), respectively, with an aim to provide support to indigenous communities of the Rupununi. GRDB plans to facilitate the increased production of rice in the Rupununi from approximate 25-30 acre cultivations, gradually to 50 acres and then 100 acres. To achieve this goal, GRDB will adopt a two-pronged approach; install the necessary infrastructure, then proceed in actual increased cultivation.
As such, this year the focus continues to be primarily on the following activities: installation of an irrigation system to supply water from the identified source (creek) to cultivation site, installation of a 10 MT Dryer to facilitate timely drying and replacing the current harvester with one of a larger capacity to improve harvesting. These activities will permit the sustained cultivation of 25 acres of paddy in 2016 while providing the necessary infrastructure for increased cultivation to 50 acres (scheduled to commence from 2017) and continue to the desired target of 100 acres over the period 2018-2020.
Despite the continued growth in rice production, this Ministry of Agriculture continues to be concerned at the many problems plaguing farmers who are facing the brunt of the depressed prices being paid for rice on the international markets – low prices paid to farmers per bag of paddy is being compounded by lengthy delays in actual payment to them by Millers.
Also working feverishly in the interest of Guyana’s rice farmers is the GRDB’s research arm which has been churning out new higher yielding blast resistant varieties that have resulted a dramatic increase in the farmers’ average yield per acre, from 23 bags to 35 bags.
The recent release of the first successful line of aromatic rice has also opened up a real possibility for improved earnings for local farmers planting this variety. The International price for a tonne of this specialty rice is no less than US $700 dollars per tonne.
Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA)
Under its National Genetics Improvement programme for livestock in Guyana, the GLDA will be stepping up its various initiatives in this regard. Three key interventions in this regard are artificial insemination, embryo transfer and live animal distribution.
Already the GLDA has been increasing its stock of genetically superior animals at its Ebini Ranch and with the ongoing planned increase of buy back of the productive females from the abattoir, there has been an encouraging growth in the number of mothers available for the authority’s breeding programme.
The efforts of the GLDA in this regard is also being bolstered through the ongoing partnerships with 10 of Guyana’s leading livestock farms – these farms have been benefiting from the various interventions and are now in a position to pass on this assistance to smaller farms and farmers across the country. GLDA also has great focus on pasture development specifically for the intermediate and hinterland savannahs.
For the Fisheries Department, initiatives for Hinterland Development will focus on the development of Inland fisheries and Aquaculture in Regions 1, 7, 8, 9 and 10. Key highlights of the programme include the achievement of the following: implementation of the Arapaima Management Plan and the active involvement of stakeholders in aquaculture and sport fishing. In region 9, the Department will facilitate implementation of the Arapaima Management Plan. Collaboration with the relevant stakeholders, particularly at Annai and Kumu, will promote aquaculture development, support the practice of Sport fishing and include the development of Inland fisheries regulations.
The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo)
In the area of Sugar, the Government of Guyana through the Ministry of Agriculture has strategically developed a number of vital interventions that have been implemented to ensure a turnaround is realised in the shortest possible time.
The most unpopular of these interventions has been the imminent closure of the sugar factory at Wales as recommended by GuySuCo’s board and more recently the merging of the remaining operations at the LBI estate with those at Enmore. Closure of the LBI estate Factory occurred under the previous administration as part of plans then to rationalise operations at the sugar corporation.
In the meantime the corporation is moving ahead with a massive Sugar Industry Mechanization Plan that will see the injection of some 400 million Guyana dollars on the purchase of machinery and equipment for semi-mechanical planting, mechanical harvesting and land preparation.
Pesticide and Toxic Chemical Control Board (PTCCB)
The Pesticides & Toxic Chemicals Control Board (PTCCB) continues its work to minimize the risk to human health through sound chemicals management through constant inspection and licensing, having licensed 168 vending sites countrywide in addition to continuously addressing illegal importation and distribution of illegal chemicals. The PTCCB also provides training and conducts numerous educational outreaches to raise awareness to the general public on the safe use, handling, storage and disposal of pesticides. Being mandated to also promote proper storage of pesticides, the PTCCB is expected to distribute more pesticide storage cabinets in addition to the 175 that were distributed to farmers in regions 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 10 when they launched a pilot project in 2014.
In 2015, the PTCCB commenced conducting community outreach programmes in Guyana. These programmes target large groups and persons of all ages in Regions 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9 and 10. Additionally, PTCCB is actively involved in interagency collaborations with NAREI, GLDA, GuySuCo, GRDB and the Ministry of Public Health to promote Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Integrated Vector Management (IVM) as long-term sustainable approaches to pest management and vector control.
Guyana’s agriculture sector is on the move. Under the direction of the Minister of Agriculture the sector is poised to realize its true potential and along with its regional and international partners, will continue to work to put in place the logistical and legislative framework as required by those partners to ensure that agricultural produce and products have unfettered access to lucrative markets both regionally and internationally.
To this end, the Ministry of Agriculture has completed the draft of the Food Safety and Animal Welfare Bills which has been sent to cabinet for consideration and approval prior to tabling in the National Assembly.
The Food safety Bill when enacted will seek to prevent the spread of food borne diseases through the control of the production, preparation, handling, storage and the transportation of food and provide for connected matters.
The Animal Health Bill on the other hand will deal with the general welfare of animals, providing for their protection and health. Such an act is necessary as Guyana moves forward to ensuring that consumers are exposed to safe meat and its byproducts.