Contraction in rice, sugar sectors linked to El Nino impact

The contractions for the first half of 2016 for the Agriculture Ministry are as a result of the impacts the sector faced due to El Nino, which could have seen famers more negatively affected had it not been for financial injection by the sector agencies.

El Nino impacts, despite nothing new, have forced the Ministry to stretch its already lacking resources to the stage where it has been borrowing equipment, such as water pumps from main drainage areas across the country in order to cushion the effects.

Rice industry

The injections by central government into the rice industry have proven beneficial, as Extension Officers of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), working along with rice farmers, were able to reduce losses countrywide by 10 percent.

Such investments in the rice industry included but were not limited to trapping irrigation water, spraying for paddy bug, monitoring the salinity levels in water and advising farmers, and holding farmers’ field school exercises among others.  Assistance given to farmers has seen productivity increasing by 5 percent over 2015.

For the spring crop of 2015, of the 97,628 hectares of rice sown, 98.9 percent was successfully harvested with farmers reaping 90.3 bags per hectare of paddy. For the same period of 2016, farmers harvested, despite being affected by El Nino, 98.7 percent of the 76,717 hectares sown.

In Region Two, of the 9,891.50 hectares sown, farmers were able to harvest 9, 768.90- a 99.9 percent of its overall production. Region 3 and 4 recorded a 100 percent harvest, while Regions 5, 6 and 9 recorded 99, 98 and 79 percent harvest, respectively.

Comparison of exports

Exports of paddy and white rice to the various markets also saw an increase over 2015, even as Government continues to secure additional markets.

In 2015, exports to CARICOM countries in total stood at 43, 671.732 tonnes compared to 45,129.735 for the first half of 2016. Exports to the European Union also saw an increase from 91, 534.618 tonnes for 2015 to 151,377.765 tonnes for 2016.

Sugar industry performance

The sugar industry continues to be a key area of focus as Government seeks to fast-track a diversification plan for the Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco) that would see the ailing entity overcome the current challenges of regaining financial viability.

Sugar production for the first of half of the year continues to fall short of projected targets with just over 55,000 tonnes produced thus far, or 30 % less than the production for the same period last year. However, production shortfall for the first half of this year has been attributed to the severe El Niño dry spell which hit hard from September of 2015. This affected the growth of the ratoon canes, ultimately resulting in the low yields realised.

GuySuCo has since revised its 2016 production to 218,188 tonnes, a reduction of just over 12,000 tonnes.

Over the past 14 months, GuySuCo has been pursuing a strategic plan to streamline and concentrate is production at all estates – ensuring minimal wastage of resources across the board. The rationalisation of the workforce at the Wales factory has been progressing satisfactorily as the merger of the Wales and Uitvlugt estates loom closer.

As part of its diversification plans for GuySuCo, Government continues to mull a conversion of the Wales factory to a dairy pasteurisation plant, a key component of the livestock development drive now underway.

The Ministry of Agriculture will continue to play its part in the on-going efforts being executed to ensure that farmers’ livelihood are not affected.