The need for potatoes to be cultivated on a large scale basis in Guyana is evident as several partnership proposals have been received by the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) from private investors. This is in light of several successful trials undertaken by the institution over the past year.
To this end, the research arm of the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Agricultural Research and Extension (NAREI) is in the process of procuring a State-of-the-art Potato Seed Storage equipment. According to the Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Oudho Homenauth, adding such an equipment to the list of services already being offered by the institution is necessary, it positions itself to adequately address the need for the commodity to be grown locally.
“Already $5M has been allocated under our capital works program for the procurement of the equipment and will be procured shortly…adding potatoes to the list of commodities we (NAREI), have successfully is important, but having it done on a large-scale basis is ever more necessary,” Dr. Homenauth added.
During the trial phase undertaken by the Research Institute, several successful trials were undertaken in conjunction with farmers in Mahaicony, Little Biaboo- Region 5, La Luni and Kairuni on the Linden Soesdyke Highway, and Regions 7 and 8 namely, Kato, Parima, and Santa Fe.
However, of the notable challenges which were documented by the Institute were poor germination and the development of fungus as a result of improper storage of seed materials.
“What we have noticed is that for the potato seedlings to be viable it has to be stored at a temperature between 7-8˚С….Another area is time and density for the planting of the potato seedling due to our changing weather patterns,” NAREI’s C.E.O said.
One of the spin-off effects of Guyana being able to produce potato on a large-scale basis will be a significant reduction in its Import Bill which continues to be a challenge for Guyana and in the wider CARICOM region. To target this according to, Dr. Homenauth import substitution has to be increased.
Thus far, significant efforts have already been made to diversify the crops that can be produced locally such as spices, potatoes, and onions.
“From 2011 to 2016, the Food Import Bill has risen from US$176 Million to US$261 Million, representing a 48% increase over the 6 year period. This is an alarming figure and is the premise on which NAREI’s diversification efforts are targeted,” Dr. Homnauth stated.
In light of Guyana’s quest to expand its commercial agriculture, Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder, has called on investors to take advantage of the opportunities.
He added that with prospects of potatoes being grown on a large-scale basis, the opportunities will be ripe to engage, network and grow.
“It is necessary now as it highlights the interface for collaboration as we expand not only our production base but addresses key constraints which has been hindering our productivity in the past,” Minister Holder said.
The agriculture sector is undoubtedly one of the most important sectors in Guyana and continues to contribute over 16% to the economy. Its vast tracts of productive lands present opportunities for continued growth.
However, the Agriculture Minister has cautioned that for this growth to continue there needs to be a shift in the way Guyana do business.
“This is where the Food Safety and Animal Welfare Bills plays an important role in regularizing agricultural practices and ensuring consumer confidence in Guyana’s products. The public/private partnership is necessary there for this to be achieved and in the shortest possible time,” the Minister reminded.