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Agri Minister tasks new Board with developing programmes to guide Gov’t policies on coconut development, bioethanol, mangrove, etc.

Earlier today, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha officially instated members of the Board of Directors for the National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI).

The new board members, who will serve in this capacity for one year, were encouraged to work together in order to lay the ground work to take the agency to the next level.

While offering remarks, Minister Mustapha said that the Board is expected to develop programmes aligned with Government’s policies, as were outlined in its 2020-2025 manifesto.

“Some of those policies are to create a supporting environment for other crops development, promoting agriculture diversification with focus on coconut and horticulture. NAREI is also tasked with promoting an agro-energy industry; producing bioethanol through palm oil, cassava and corn. I recently had a discussion with the Chairman about palm oil in Region One and I’ve asked him to prepare a programme for the Ministry so that we can see the kind of funding necessary for that,” Minister Mustapha said. 

The Board was also tasked with developing guidelines to expand import substitution crops, as well as, soya bean, corn and other crops in the Hinterland Savannahs. The subject Minister noted that, in last year’s emergency budget, incentives were given in the soya bean and corn industry and that the Board should work to promote the cultivation of these two crops.

Furthermore, Minister Mustapha encouraged the Board to pay special attention to developing strategies to boost Guyana’s coconut industry.

“You know for a fact that our coconut industry is about to take off and we’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on the its success and development. We’ve had budgetary allocation last year to develop two new coconut nurseries and this year we are proposing an additional seven nurseries for other areas around the country. We are optimistic that we’ll have those projects approved by the Ministry of Finance so that we can begin constructing these nurseries. The coconut industry, for me, is probably the third most important crop in our country and has the potential to be a very large foreign exchange earner for Guyana. We’ve also made great progress with joining the International Coconut Community (ICC),” Minister Mustapha said.

Newly appointed Chairman of the Board, Major General (Ret’d) Joe Singh, while offering remarks stated that the Board will work together to address the areas identified by Minister Mustapha.

“The Minister has given us a very comprehensive outline of his and Cabinet’s expectations of the Board and direction on what is considered priorities as it relates to NAREI’s mandate. I don’t expect us to only be sitting in a boardroom, but we’ll also be visiting other areas across the country. In this way we’ll be able to see the results of NAREI’s research as well as interact with farmers. I really would like us to think from a national perspective – how is what we’re doing as a Board is not only supporting, tasking and monitoring what NAREI is doing but what it is that we can bring to the Board. I don’t expect persons to just be rubber stamps,” Mr. Singh said.

The Chairman further stated that there are a number of outstanding issues that the Board will be dealing with during their statutory meetings.

The Board was also tasked with guiding NAREI on ways to expand on training and its extension service capabilities. Minister Mustapha stressed the importance of ensuring NAREI’s extension officers being more responsive to the needs of the farmers. He further added that one of the major challenges in research in Guyana is getting the technology to farmers.

“Our extension officers need to be more engaged with farmers’ groups to assist with the establishment of demonstration plots and place more emphasis on the dissemination of agriculture technology to these groups. There also needs to be some amount of work directed towards plant protection. During the Ministerial visit to Suriname last year, I had discussions with Surinamese authorities and we’ll have areas of corporation that NAREI will have to play a very important role. I know we’ve made some progress in this regard with diseases that were detected in Suriname and Brazil and I think at the level of the Board, these issues have to be looked at very closely,” Minister Mustapha said.

The Board was also asked to play close attention to the development and implementation of the mangrove development plan for 2021-2025. Minister Mustapha urged the new Board to develop a programme to guide government’s five-year strategic plan for strengthening Guyana’s sea defenses through the integration of mangroves, inclusive of the execution of mangrove replanting exercises in vulnerable areas across the Coast. 

The new members of the NAREI Board of Directors include Major General (Ret’d) Joe Singh (chairman), Dr. Dindyal Permaul, Anjanie Narine, Andrew Forsythe, Natasha Beerjit-Deonarine, Bibi Shadick, Jainarine Narine, Suresh Amichand, Pooran Seeraj, Ricky Roopchand, Christopher Vandeyar, Dr. Garvin Cummings, Porandatt Narine, Raymond Ramsaroop and Dr. Oudho Homenauth (ex officio).

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