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MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE congratulates the students who sat the NGSA

I would like to take this opportunity to extend heartfelt congratulations to all the students who wrote this year’s National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA).

I know this year, you our children, faced many challenges, the greatest one being the global pandemic – COVID-19. However, despite those challenges, you were able to stay focused and today I join with the rest of the nation to celebrate your achievements.

You are one step closer to becoming leaders of this great nation. Your strength and commitment throughout your primary school lives, have paid off. It is now time for you to go forward and continue to strive for excellence.

There is a place in society for all of you. Do not be discouraged if you think your achievements are not as outstanding as others. Rather, see your achievement as an opportunity to enter into the next chapter of your academic life more determined than before.

I see each of you as the next generation of skilled agronomists, veterinarians, engineers, hydro-chemists and Ministers of Agriculture. I therefore encourage you to remain committed to your own advancement and to the development of Guyana.

This government stands ready to support our nation’s schools and to further develop the public service structure to avert brain-drain and ensure our young people are paid favourable wages and salaries.

I also want to congratulate the parents, guardians and Teachers of all the children who wrote the NGSA. You have proven to be champions, as many of you battled to ensure resources were available to guarantee success in these troubling times. I encourage you to continue to be that beacon of strength and inspiration and the source of support they need as they enter into this new and exciting chapter of learning.

Congratulations and best wishes!

  • over 1800 rice and other crops’ farmers set to benefit

Following a decision taken by cabinet on Thursday last, the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) will soon receive in excess of GY $29M to commence rehabilitation works to several access dams in Regions Two, Three, Five and Six.

This is according to Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, who said that the works are considered urgent, as some 91,580 acres of rice field are currently under threat due to inaccessible dams.

“Farmers have been complaining about the current state of these dams. Due to the severity of the last rainy season, the NDIA and the various Regional Administrations were unable to carry out much needed repairs and maintenance to over 227,000 rods of access dams. Farmers will suffer millions in losses if we do not carry out these works immediately for them to be able to harvest their rice for the upcoming autumn crop,” Minister Mustapha said.

The funds will also facilitate repair to an additional 101,942 rods of dams that were damaged due to continuous use by farmers who made efforts to save their crops and recover expenses from what they could have harvested. 

With fields yielding an average of 40 bags per acre, farmers are expected to harvest over 3,663,000 bags of paddy with an estimated value of GY $10.2B.

Rice remains one of Guyana’s largest export earners, grossing over US $222M in 2019.

Government is currently in the process of preparing for a four-month budget that will see the Ministry of Agriculture carrying out additional emergency works to a number of drainage and irrigation structures and access dams across the country. 

Farmers residing in the Essequibo Islands-West Demerara Region are assured that with the installation of the PPP/C Government, their livelihoods will be improved; and the current dilapidated and unsatisfactory working conditions will be a thing of past.

Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha speaking to a farmer from Region Three

This was disclosed by Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha, when he led his technical team to several communities within the Region Three district, on Wednesday.

Canal Numbers One and Two were among the communities visited and inspected by the team.

Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha speaking to Region Three farmers

The need for proper drainage and irrigation at several canals was brought to the Minister’s attention; as well as the lack of water to farmlands.

One resident spoke of the terrible infrastructure on the main thoroughfare which provides access to farms.

While some of the burning issues highlighted could not have been addressed immediately given their magnitude, there were others which received immediate intervention by the Minister.

Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha addressing issues with farmers of Region Three

Listening to questions regarding the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), the Minister indicated that works have already begun on the revamping of the sector. He said with the establishment of a new board at the entity, the management will be reorganised to allow effective production.

Minister Mustapha said Government is committed to accomplishing every plan stated in its manifesto.

“In the Agriculture sector we have to ensure that our farmers get the kind of infrastructural work and support that are needed so that there will be massive production,” he noted.

Pointing out that the Agriculture industry is significant to the nation, the Minister stated that he will be putting all hands-on deck to safeguard food security in Guyana. He relayed too that the extension services at the Ministry of Agriculture will see major improvement.

“When I took over the Ministry, I found that there was a lack of leadership. The Ministry had no direction. Now we have to focus our attention on certain objectives. One of those objectives is to ensure that we have maximum production.”

The Minister reminded that until there is a budget in place, some issues will be addressed.  He said a proposal was submitted to the Finance Ministry in preparation for an emergency budget.

“Hopefully if those projects and our estimate are granted, we will have more resources to assist our farmers,” the Agri-Minister said.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture Ministry plans to stretch its resources to make life better for farmers.

(DPI)

With the resumption of the Farmers’ Open Day at the Ministry of Agriculture, several persons within the sector were allowed to meet with Agriculture Minister, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha to discuss their concerns and proposals.

Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha

Today several farmers and interested stakeholders met with Minister Mustapha and various Heads of Departments among them was Region Two rice farmer Mr. Ramnarace Ramlakhan.

“The issue, I came here to address with the minister was an issue for the last five years with GRDB and so far, he has given me a good answer about the matter and he said that he will continue to work so that the matter is resolved,” Mr. Ramlakhan told DPI.

A section of the persons at the open day

Interested stakeholder Dr. Bernard Dennison was also among those seeking time with the Minister to discuss his proposals for the sector. He commended the Minister Mustapha for resuming the Open Day initiative.

Dr. Bernard Dennison, an interested stakeholder

“There were discussions I had relevant to the farming situation and I am very impressed that the Minister has taken upon himself to move in that direction… I am impressed with the way the Minister and Ministry are going with respect to farming. I mean some persons could not farm and are now able to get on their farm to do so,” He said.

Blocked drains, employment opportunities and land allocations were among other issues raised at today’s engagement.

For his part, Minister Mustapha noted that the decision to host the Farmers Open Day will allow him to hear “firsthand from the farmers what is affecting them.”

The Minister said coming off the meeting the Ministry’s extension officers will now visit the farmers to try to resolve the respective issues.

“I think that the extension services that the ministry normally provides have to improve, however, since I came here I think many farmers are now being visited by our extension officers and that will be our new norm. They will go and report regularly on what they are doing and how they are helping farmers,” the Minister stated

The Ministry is anticipating that the initiative will be beneficial for the farmers.

(DPI)

As part of his transitional phase since assuming office early August, Guyana’s Agriculture Minister, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha, today toured several agriculture agencies, to familiarise himself with the various departments and members of staff.

Guyana’s Agriculture Minister, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha greets staff at the GuySuCo head office

The Minister made his first stop at the La Bonne Intention Agriculture Complex, where he visited the headquarters of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA), the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) and the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB).

There, he spoke of his expectations, while enforcing the new administration’s policies and programmes.

Guyana’s Agriculture Minister, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha interacts with member of staff at NDIA

“Since I took over this Ministry as Minister of Agriculture, we are trying to put systems in place that is responsive to the people and we want to be a Ministry that is very responsive. So, when people come to us with issues, we must be ready to resolve them,” the Minister told the NDIA staff.

Those present at the short briefing were also reminded of their contributions towards building the agriculture sector.

“You all have to ensure that you work assiduously and deliver because people are depending on us for their livelihood. We have to provide water for them and drain their lands,” the Minister stated.

Interacting with employees at GRDB, the Agriculture Minister noted the importance of teamwork.

“When I met with senior personnel of these Ministry, I said as Minister, I will not look at race, religion or political affiliations. When it comes to the Ministry’s work that is what needs to be done. That should be the main objective of each and every one of us.”

Guyana’s Agriculture Minister, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha speaks to GMC General Manager, Ida Sealey-Adams

Minister Mustapha added “I do not care which political party you support. What is important, when we come here, we all need to work as a team, we are one big family with one objective.”

During his walk through at the GRDB, the Minister was given a tour of the central laboratory and was briefed on its daily operations.

Meanwhile, a similar familiarisation exercise was carried out at the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA).

Further, employees were encouraged to work collaboratively, to better boost the production of the sector, which will, in the end, meet the expectation of the Government.

Minister Mustapha is expected to revisit the departments subsequently, where he will formally interact with the full staff complement to address any issues they may have and to decide on the way forward.

(DPI)

  • as Chinese Ambassador pays courtesy call to Minister of Agriculture

Guyana’s agriculture sector is expected to receive a major technological boost, that will see farmers benefiting from better yields and more pest and disease resistant varieties of rice and other agricultural crops.

Minister Mustapha during his meeting with the Chinese ambassador

During a courtesy call to Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha, China’s Ambassador to Guyana, H. E. Cui Jianchun said that China is happy to collaborate and offer assistance to the Agriculture Sector.

“I went to Berbice to speak with the (rice) farmers. They told me that they need modern technology. They would like to grow more rice but they need more modernize equipment and scientific technologies to do so. Over the past year we’ve invited students to go to China and had Chinese experts come here. I don’t think that’s enough because the people get trained but they don’t have the necessary technology or investment,” Ambassador Jianchun said.

Ambassador Jianchun also said he is willing to assist with rice research by assisting Guyana with having specialists from China’s Research Institute to come and work along with Guyana’s rice research scientists at Burma.

While addressing the issue of technology, Minister Mustapha informed the Ambassador that his Ministry is hoping to collaborate with China to assist farmers in adopting a more scientific role in their cultivation.

“Agriculture in Guyana has the potential to expand but we need our farmers to have a more science based approach. Farmers are still working with the same systems used 20 years ago. Government wants to tap into your country’s resources and expertise to assist our farmers with taking agriculture in Guyana to the next level. Investments in the sector are also important. There is great potential for the skills acquired through the training to be fully utilized through improved technology and investments,” Minister Mustapha said.

Minister Mustapha also stated that he plans to work closely with the Chinese Government to have more locally produced commodities on the Chinese market. Ambassador Jianchun informed the Minister that Guyana is welcome to participate and showcase its products at the annual Shanghai International Expo.

The Minister will soon submit a proposal for assistance in the rice sector that will include suggestions for a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to be signed for demonstration plot to be set up. This will facilitate collaborative research between the National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), The Guyana Rice Research Station at Burma and the Research Institute of China to test higher yielding varieties of rice in Guyana.

Also present at the meeting was MoA’s Director General, Madanlall Ramraj.

  • other technical assistance to be given to improve rice and sugar sectors

Guyana is expected to receive three additional mobile pumps by late October to assist with its drainage capabilities ahead of the next rainy season.

Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha while meeting by India’s High Commissioner to Guyana, H.E. Dr. K. J. Srinivasa

This was disclosed by India’s High Commissioner to Guyana, H.E. Dr. K. J. Srinivasa, during a courtesy call to Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha at his Regent Street office earlier today.

“The pumps, I believe they will be used for irrigation, should be here by October. They have already left India. As it is now, we have some specialists that are expected to come to Guyana to assist with the installation of the pumps. We are working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Guyana’s High Commission in India to assist with visas and other logistical support to the officers,” High Commissioner Dr. Srinivasa said.

During their dialogue, Minister Mustapha mentioned several opportunities for meaningful collaborations, as he outlined a number of challenges that the agriculture sector is currently facing.

“Right now, in Guyana, the challenges faced in the agriculture sector are climate change, financing, expertise in terms of personnel and also the numerous pests and diseases affecting our crops. I know India has very strong technical capabilities and resources to effectively deal with some of the challenges we are facing.  I am looking forward to close collaborations with the Indian Government, through your office, to help us overcome some of these challenges,” Minister Mustapha said.

The two officials also discussed partnering to diversify the sugar industry. Minister Mustapha reiterated government’s commitment to reopening the sugar industry, in a way that is profitable.

“In order to make sugar profitable, we have to diversify. We have to first make the cost of production less than the price of sugar on the world market. This government understands the importance of the industry. When the previous administration closed those estates, there was a ripple effect that saw entire communities suffering. As a government, profits shouldn’t be your main motivator. You should work to improve the lives of your people. If you have to take some money from the treasury to help your people, there is nothing wrong with doing that,” Minister Mustapha said. 

Minister also indicated that he has commenced working with the senior and technical officers at the Ministry to get things moving as it relates to reopening the sugar industry.

“Given India’s output on the world stage, I know that Guyana can take a lot of guidance from India. I know for a fact that your Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, expressed an interest to help us with the sugar industry and right now that is one of the main issues for me as Minister. I’ve started to do some ground work and gather some information on the way forward as it pertains to achieving our manifesto promise of re-opening the sugar industry. I hope we can tap into some resources and technical assistance from your government in that regard,” Minister Mustapha said.

Technology transfer between the two nations to improve Guyana’s rice industry was also discussed, as Ambassador Srinivasa indicated that the Indian government is committed to working with the government to improve the yields of farmers across the country.

Minister Mustapha informed the High Commissioner that India had previously assisted Guyana’s rice industry by having a rice specialist work with the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) which saw yields per acre increasing tremendously, and that he is looking forward to the same kind of collaboration to boost the industry.

The High Commissioner also informed the Minister that several training opportunities are also available for persons involved in agriculture.

“Over the years, we’ve offered a number of training opportunities in several areas. These opportunities are not only open to your agriculture officers. If you have farmers or other persons involved in the sector that require training, we can facilitate them. The programs are short term but very intense so these individuals would return well equipped to advance in the sector,” Ambassador Srinivasa said.

Other areas for collaborations discussed were training and technical support in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, cash crops development, pest and disease control mechanisms and agro-processing.

Ambassador Srinivasa also mentioned that India has been in talks with CARICOM, and an aquaculture specialist will soon be in the Region to assist CARICOM States in that regard. He assured Minister Mustapha that Guyana will benefit from that venture.

Both parties indicated their governments remain committed to strengthening bilateral relations in the future.

Also present at the meeting was MoA’s Director General, Madanlall Ramraj.

  • Pledges full corporation to advance the sector

President of the Rice Producers’ Association (RPA) Mr. Leakha Rambrich today paid a courtesy call to Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha at his Regent Street office.

Minister Zulfikar Mustapha is pictured with the RPA’s President, General Secretary and MoA’s Director General

Accompanying Mr. Rambrich, was RPA General Secretary, Mr. Dharamkumar Seeraj.

During the meeting, the officials pledged their support for the Minister in his efforts to advance the sector.

Minister Mustapha informed the delegation that his Ministry welcomes the support and corporation of the RPA and looks forward to stronger collaborations in the future.

“I know that the RPA has a vested interest in Guyana’s rice industry. This is why I want to take this opportunity to invite you to play a more active role in terms of collaborating to better the sector and offer our rice farmers a better way of life. I plan to work closely with the RPA to improve the way we resolve issues faced by our farmers. As the body selected to make representation for our rice farmers, feel free to contact me so that we can work together to handle the issues and achieve timely resolutions,” Minister Mustapha said.

Minister also invited the RPA officials to participate in future Ministerial outreaches to rice producing regions.  

Mr. Rambrich said he welcomes the invitation to strengthen ties and collaborate with the Ministry to better execute the RPA’s mandate, which is to play a pivotal role in agitating for the rights of the rice farmers as since these individuals have always contributed to the economic, human and social development of Guyana.

Also present at the meeting was the Ministry’s Director General, Mr. Madanlall Ramraj.

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