Thirteen Caribbean Ministers of Agriculture participated in a videoconference with the Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), in which they discussed strategies to bolster agricultural activity and to safeguard the food supply amidst the ongoing health crisis, in a region that relies heavily on food imports and on tourism.
Saboto Caesar, Minister of Agriculture of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, convened the meeting and will also lead the efforts of the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) agrifood sector to tackle the pandemic.
Actions that IICA will undertake with the Caribbean countries to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic will include facilitating direct dialogue with Ministers of Agriculture of all regions of the Americas to share useful information for decision making related to food security, and providing online training in good agricultural and health practices for rural workers.
The Ministers of Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Surinam and Trinidad and Tobago participated in the videoconference.
“The most important role we can play is to inspire and motivate others”, said Michael Pintard, Minister of Marine Resources and Agriculture of The Bahamas. “Covid-19 is one of those defining tragedies from which we will recover. If we unite as a region and as nations, we will be able to inspire our people”.
Manuel Otero, IICA’s Director General pledged that, “We will work with the Caribbean countries to devise ambitious proposals to generate a new extension services strategy based on the use of online and mobile telephone systems, as well as to drive horizontal cooperation, enabling the ministers to establish contact with key countries to build bridges and to take advantage of existing complementarities”.
One of the greatest challenges facing the Caribbean is to ensure that food imports are not disrupted at this time when the global food trade is under severe pressure. Barbados, for example, imports 80% of the food that it consumes. On the other hand, Jamaica and Guyana are experiencing grave difficulties in storing excess food production after the closure of borders and the collapse of tourism, which is a vital industry for the regional economy that is normally the main outlet for most of the food that is produced locally.
Added to this is the drought now facing the region which makes it critical for the agriculture sector to increase resilience to climate variability and to incorporate technology.
IICA’s Director General also proposed to the Caribbean ministers of Agriculture that international financial agencies should be included in future online meetings, as part of a strategy to integrate efforts to guarantee food supply during the current pandemic and in its aftermath.
The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) has invested $109.7Million in the establishment of a state-of-the-art seed cleaning facility at the Burma Rice Research Station, in Region Five.
The seed cleaner equipment cost $99.3Million while renovation to the existing building was completed for $10.4Million.
, Minister of Agriculture, the Hon. Noel Holder commissioned the ‘Superbrix’ 10-tonne seed cleaner. He noted that the modernised facility will continue to provide good quality seed and better-quality seeds increases yield by 10-15 percent.
“The previous 2-tonne seed cleaner required that operations be done on a 24-hour basis when seeds were being cleaned. This was procured and installed over ten years ago,” Minister Holder reminded.
With this new high-quality system, the minister said, the Burma Rice Research Station will now be able to clean seed that it produces at a faster rate, thus reducing extended working hours.
He added that there is a cost attached for private seed growers who wish to utilise the services offered by the GRDB.
The rice research station has over the years made remarkable strides. Nineteen rice varieties along with the production packages were developed which contributed to the boom in the productivity of farm levels.
The national average has moved to 5.9 hectares compared to about 4 hectares ten years ago.
Also present at the formal event was the GRDB’s General Manager, Nizam Hassan, Deputy General Manager Allison Peters and Chief Technical Officer, Ministry of Agriculture, George Jervis.
A $7.3Million 30-seater school bus has been handed over to the community of Burma in the Mahaica-Berbice region.
The Ministry of Agriculture through the Mahaica Abary Rice Development Scheme and the Ministry of Public Infrastructure jointly donated the vehicle following a request from residents.
The bus will serve students from communities along the Burma Road, including Augsburg, Catherina and Champagne.
According to Minister of Agriculture Hon. Noel Holder, the new service will save time and money for the farming families and reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions.
Public Infrastructure Minister, the Hon. David Patterson remarked that while the communities have several needs, the provision of the school bus was one of the “low hanging fruits” for the government.
Pointing to a brighter future for Guyana’s children, Minister Patterson said that the education sector was poised for greatness in the ‘Decade of Development’ announced by His Excellency President David Granger on January 1.
“Do not only drop these children to school but also use the bus to expand the student’s horizon,” Minister Patterson further urged.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday afternoon Minister Holder handed over a tractor and implements valued at
to the Hope Coconut Industries Limited (HCIL).
The implements include a four-disk plough, a twenty-disk harrow and a ditcher.
“This will strengthen the capacity of Hope Estate to provide land preparation services to the small cash crop farmers and maintain 77km of access dams in the estate. Two hundred and sixty cash crop farmers with approximately 952 acres under cultivation will directly benefit from this donation,” Minister Holder stated.
Mahadeo Mohabir, one of the beneficiaries, said he had to plough his land manually before the tractor was donated. “We glad we get this tractor now; it is a big help. Thanks to the Minister and all who donated it,” the cash crop farmer said.
With the donation, Boodhnarine Ramdas, another farmer said he no longer had to pay workers to take days to cultivate his farm. “This can be done in two hours the most.”
Second highest production on record
Highest production for Region 6
With a final count of 1,049,874 metric tonnes (mt) of paddy, just 8,254 tonnes short of the 2015 record production of 1,058,128 mt. 2019 stands as the second highest rice producing year to date.
Guyana managed to produce this record amount of rice despite a number of challenges including extremely unfavourable weather conditions and some pest infestation. These challenges were taken head on by the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), who spared no effort in ensuring that the extension and support services meted out to their rice farmers were superior.
Despite this, some prominent persons and various sections of the media would have it be believed that rice is failing, despite 2019 being almost a record breaking year. Not only was production in 2019 close to surpassing the 2015 national record but production has increased 28% since 2016 as well. This is possible not only by the efforts extended by the GRDB but also by the hard work of our farmers.
Region 5 remains the highest producing region, harvesting 454,476 mt of paddy (295,409 mt rice equivalent) at a 99% harvesting rate. Second to Region 5 is Region 6 with a total of 311,915 mt of paddy (202,745 mt rice equivalent). As such region 5 stands as the highest rice producing region for 2019.
It is worth noting that as it relates to region 6, last year’s production is the highest ever for the region since it began paddy production. Region 6 produced 4,910,444 bags of paddy. This equates to a 25% increase in Paddy production for Region 6.
Overall a total of 16,528,024 bags of paddy (a rice equivalent of 682,418 mt) was produced. 178,628 hectares were sown, with an average yield of 93 bags of rice per hectare (38 bags of rice per acre).
12% increase in volume; 20% increase in value
The Guyana Rice Development Board’s 2019 export report has revealed that US$222.7 million was earned through the export of rice to more than 35 countries in that year alone. The export value for 2019 represents an increase of 20% when compared to the revenue earned from the export in 2018 (US $186 million).
526,617 tonnes of paddy, rice and rice by-products were exported in 2019 compared with 470,312 tonnes in 2018, an increase of 12%. The greatest amount of exports went to Latin American countries, with Venezuela being the largest buyer of rice from Guyana for 2019 with 177,682 tonnes (34% of all exports). Second to Venezuela was Portugal with a total of 61,873 tonnes of rice being exported there, representing 12% of the total amount of rice exported.
69,956 tonnes (13%) valued at US $35 million were exported to CARICOM countries in 2019. Of this figure, Jamaica and Trinidad were the largest CARICOM importers, importing 32,743 tonnes and 25,417 tonnes respectively. Guyana exported rice to ten CARICOM countries, namely; Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, St. Kitts, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
214,190 tonnes of rice (41%) were shipped to the European Union in 2019, compared with 146,092 tonnes shipped in 2018, an increase of 47%. Main importing countries were Portugal, Italy, United Kingdom and Spain.
241,919 tonnes of products (46%) were exported to Latin American countries of which 177,682 tonnes were shipped to Venezuela. Other main importing countries were Cuba, Columbia, Honduras and Panama.
As it relates to export by product, white rice was the largest export earner. White rice accounted for 51% of the total amount of rice exported in 2019, earning US $128,105,107. Other products exported were parboiled rice, cargo rice, paddy and bran.
Guyana produced more than one million tonnes of paddy for 2019, making it the second highest production year for rice in Guyana. With annual average yields increasing steadily and closing 2019 at 5.9 tonnes per hectare, production is expected to continue to increase in the coming years.
It is my firm belief that it is important for everyone to be aware of the fact that agriculture is currently the world’s leading employer and plays a vital role in the livelihood of 40% of its population. In Guyana, we are fortunate to have an agriculture sector that is both strong and well structured. Credit must be given to the Government of Guyana and Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) in particular, which showed both commitment and wisdom in investing and creating favorable pathways for continued development of the sector over the past four years.
I am both pleased and impressed that the new management of Hope Coconut Industries Limited (HCIL) took advantage of the favorable environment that was created by the MOA to work towards making the estate sustainable and less dependent on Government’s subvention for its day to day management.
The major setbacks the estate suffered under mismanagement by the PPP led Government cannot be swept under the carpet. The estate was hemorrhaging badly and almost went bankrupt. Staff at one time were not paid their monthly salaries for months. All the basic infrastructures were in a state of total collapse and corruption was rampant. However, we should put these unfortunate occurrences behind us and look positively towards the future.
Currently, I must acknowledge the fact that the financial future for HCIL is bright. As a direct result of prudent management of its resources and systems put in place by the MOA, the annual income of the estate has leaped from G$17 million in 2015 to G$36million in 2019. This resulted in a 47% increase in income.
In its wisdom, the current government over the past 4 years, invested significant financial and human resources to improve the crippling infrastructure at Hope Estate. The aim of this intervention was to better serve farmers’ needs, most of whom are small producers and risk takers. As a direct result of these interventions, today the tides have turned for the better. Several bridges, dams, main access road, the entire D&I system, extension and repairs of the main office building, establishing of a vibrant coconut nursery and coconut demonstration plot – to name a few are now up and running for the benefit of stakeholder of Hope Estate.
The year 2019 was good for HCIL. Much needed improvements were made, especially in the area of improving its infrastructure. It is important to mention that the estate has embarked on projects that are economically smart, environmentally safe and agronomically sound. Its highly successful coconut nursery, which continues to serve farmers’ needs and is currently one of HCIL ‘s main income streams as well as the extension of its Head Office Building should be commended. The estate is expected to perform even better in 2020. This is because the MOA has in its plan to provide HCIL with a few critical pieces of equipment as well as an excavator which will be used full time to improve the D & I systems that are so critical for production. In addition, a mechanical pump, which is currently under construction at a cost of over G$ 200 million is expected to become fully operational in the first quarter of 2020. This will significantly reduce the occurrence of flooding at Hope Estate. Farmers and stakeholders can be assured that these interventions will aid in the transition journey of the estate towards sustainability and improved services.
The Ministry of Agriculture will continue to provide the necessary guidance to both the management of HCIL and farmers to bring back the estate from disarray and neglect to profitability. We are committed, and will work assiduously, to ensure the value chain at HCIL becomes more productive, efficient, profitable and, critically, more inclusive. I wish to take this opportunity to encourage all producers to look seriously at adopting innovative agricultural technologies that are yield enhancing. This, if adopted and implemented correctly, can result in increased production and productivity. I firmly belief that with the required assistance farmers would be incentivized to work both harder and smarter for their own benefit and the benefit of our agricultural sector in particular as well as the nation’s welfare in general.
Hon. Noel Holder M.P.
Minister of Agriculture
− 1st cooling seminar held in Guyana
− aimed at minimising the sector’s long-term carbon footprint
The Government of Guyana is taking steps to reduce the long-term carbon footprint of the local cooling sector through international partnerships.
A three-day seminar opened, on Tuesday, where stakeholders will be exposed to information and practices to guide the development policies, their choice of technologies, and improve practices within the sector.
The Energy Efficiency and Alternative Technologies for the Cooling Sector seminar are in keeping with Guyana’s obligations under the Kigali Amendment for the phasing out of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the Montreal Protocol.
In Guyana, like in most countries, the use of cooling technologies has become indispensable in daily life and economic activities. According to Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Noel Holder, there was an estimated 20% increase in the importation of cooling equipment between 2016 and 2019.
“This trend is expected to continue along with the possibility of a dramatic escalation in these numbers in the coming years resulting in a concomitant increase in the consumption of energy in this sector. Cooling, although recognised as essential technology, is also one of the highest consumers of energy in Guyana,” Minister Holder remarked at the opening of the seminar.
It is estimated that the cooling sector accounts for some 17% of the energy consumed worldwide the minister said.
“Guyana continues to take steps to reduce our energy consumption in this sector through the promotion of energy-efficient cooling technologies and practices,” the minister noted.
The Government of Guyana has partnered with the Government of New Zealand and the UNDP to host the seminar.
UNDP Resident Representative, Jairo Valverde Bermudez applauded the initiative and declared his continued support for those efforts. He said tackling global warming was an urgent task to protect life on earth and to ensure food security for everyone.
He encouraged the participants to propose policies and regulations that could curb the use of HFCs so that cooling without warming could become a reality.
Also making brief remarks at the launch was Marco Pinzon, the Caribbean Montreal Protocol Coordinator of OzonAction, UNEP. (DPI)
Minister within the Ministry of Agriculture, Valerie Adams-Yearwood, on Friday October 25th, hosted a farmers’ symposium with several farmers from various villages in Region Nine.
The event, which took place in the boardroom of the Regional Democratic Council’s office, was part of the first day of the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo’s 2019 Regional Agriculture and Commercial Exhibition (RACE).
While delivering the feature address during the formal part of the symposium, Minister Adams-Yearwood said that the future of Agriculture in the Rupununi has great promise.
“A bright future has been forecasted for the agriculture in the Rupununi, if economic development is pursued in a way that conserves the Region’s cultural and natural heritage. Economic development in the Rupununi should always be well-placed, ecosystem-compatible and allow for a healthy long term flow of services to the people,” Minister Adams-Yearwood said.
The symposium, which was the first of its kind being hosted by the Ministry in the Region, gave farmers the opportunity to interact with the relevant Agriculture Agency Representative to address any sector related issues they are facing. Officials were also able to give insight into projects that are on-going in several villages across the Region.
Several farmers expressed that the introduction of rice cultivation to the Region was welcomed, given the challenges faced with farine production due to the prolonged dry season caused by climate change.
Ovid Browne, a farmer mentioned that in the coming week they will be harvesting the acre of rice they currently have under cultivation.
“We in the Rupununi have been experiencing some shortage of cassava because of the weather. The rice will be coming in very useful at this time so I know that the people of my community; we are very much appreciative of this initiative coming from the Guyana Rice Development Board,” Mr. Browne said.
Minister Adams-Yearwood, in her address, also spoke about government’s developmental initiatives across the country which resulted in interventions such as the establishment of water catchment areas in several villages in the Rupununi.
“Villages that benefited from that project so far included Nappi, Masara, Aranaputa, Bina Hill and Annai. With the construction of the reservoirs, residents are now able to sustain their agricultural activities during these extensive drought-like periods. In the past, sustainable agricultural practices would be almost impossible during this period, but due to this government intervention, farmers are able to stay in the fields and provide for their families,” Minister Adams-Yearwood said.
National Drainage and Irrigation Authority regional engineer, Roderick Grant said that the authority has been working assiduously to ensure farmers have a sustained water supply for their animals.
“We know that animal production is on a very high scale in Region Nine. We recently constructed another rain water catchment area for the animals and we mentioned the interventions of water holes for new shadehouses that the villagers are constructing to increase income within the villages. We recently finished a catchment site in St. Ignatius and we also encourage Toshaos and senior councillors to advise us on areas within their villages that have favourable soil structures so that our machines would be able to go in and construct these water catchment areas,” Mr. Grant said.
At the end of the event, farmers participated in a small raffle where they won a number of farm tools such as forks, shovels and pickaxes.
The symposium also saw representatives from the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA), the National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), the New Guyana Marketing Corporation (New GMC) and the Agriculture Sector Development Unit (ASDU) giving an overview of the project being rolled out in the Region and the opportunities available in areas such as agro-processing.
Also present at the meeting were Permanent Secretary, Delma Nedd, Chief Technical Officer, George Jervis, General Manager of GRDB, Nizam Hassan and other senior representatives of the Ministry, NAREI, New GMC and NDIA.