Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder on Thursday visited the village of Black Bush Polder, Region 6 where he met with scores of rice, cattle and cash crop farmers to assess the state of agriculture in the region and highlight plans for further development.
During the meeting, farmers expressed the need for more lands to be open for cultivation to meet the current demand for rice. Some farmers also indicated that they are still minor issues with irrigation for their fields.
Lallbahadur Singh, a rice farmer and member of the region’s Water User’s Association, Neighbourhood Democratic Council and Regional Democratic Council, indicated that some farmers are still receiving insufficient irrigation services for their fields.
“I believe that the sluice is underutilized and that it can be more efficient and better serve Black Bush. I am also suggesting that the Water Users’ By-Laws be updated to better sanction farmers who are not paying their rates. The Water Users’ Association should also be able to take persons to court when they have not paid for their services.” Mr. Singh said.
In responding to the farmer, Chief Executive Officer of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority, Fredrick Flatts indicated that the sluice is being utilized and many instances issues of water are only known at forums of this nature.
“The sluice is working within the specified capacity to service the entire block. If you are having issues with water I urge you to contact your Water Users’ Association so that they can make representation to have measures put in place to better serve you. There are channels that you must go through if you are not satisfied with irrigation and drainage services. As it relates to taking persons to court, that is already being done. It was put into law and the association has the right and the authority to take persons to court for unpaid service charges.” Mr. Flatts said.
One rice farmers also enquired about aerial spraying services. Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder in responding to the inquiry said that he is all for technological advances, but added that aerial spraying affects different categories of farmers in different ways.
“I am in full support of the use of new technology in agriculture. Aerial spraying can be helpful to many farmers. However when applying pesticides and other chemicals, aerial spraying tends to affect different categories of farmers in different ways. For instance, aerial spraying to apply fertilizers may benefit several categories of farmers but when applying chemicals like pesticides, one has to take into consideration the effects it would have on cash crops under cultivation and persons residing in the surrounding areas as aerial drift tends to occur.” Minister Holder said.
The Minister also encouraged persons who are interested in aerial spraying to collectively contact air service providers. He added that enough persons need to be involved or interested in the service due to the high cost associated with Aerial spraying.
Also speaking at the meeting, Phillip Sanchu, a cash crop farmer spoke of the effects of climate change on farmers’ productivity highlighting the need for a processing facility to be help farmers with spoilage.
Minister Holder stated that the Guyana Marketing Corporation is in charge of processing, but encouraged farmers to be more involved in market led agricultural activities.
“Often times we have farmers complaining about not being able to sell their produce and suffering losses because of spoilage. Since taking office, I have been encouraging farmers to practice market lad agriculture. Speak with us so we can advise you on what to plant based on what markets are available. When you plant crops and there are no markets for them they tend to spoil. Even processing some of these crops may not help if there isn’t a market for them in the processed form. I will, however, talk to my officers at the Guyana Marketing Corporation on what markets are available and how we can assist you with processing facilities for your surplus produce.” Minister Holder said.
Farmers were also informed about the Ministry’s plans to resuscitate the dairy industry.
GLDA CEO Nigel Cumberbatch told the gathering that livestock in Guyana is progressing nicely but there is still work to be done.
“We are self-sufficient in most of our livestock products. However, our milk import bill is well in excess of US $55M per year. It is our intention to establish a pasteurization plant in the region and we are going to be depending on you the farmers to have milk to supply it.” Mr. Cumberbatch said.
Minister Holder also echoed the call for the establishment and registering of a cattle association in the region.
“It is important for the association to become a reality as countries like Suriname have expressed interest in purchasing cattle from us. We want to ensure that any sales are done in an organized manner so ensure efficiency and accountability. Minister Holder said.
Minister was accompanied by NDIA’s CEO, Mr. Fredrick Flatts, GLDA’s CEO, Nigel Cumberbatch, GRDB’s General Manager, Nizam Hassan and the Prime Minister’ s Representative to Region 6, Gobin Harbhajan.