– Agri. Ministry to assist small farmers to improve production
Villagers from St. Ignatius and neighboring satellite villages in the North Rupununi will soon benefit from several initiatives that will see a significant boost in their agro-processing capabilities.
This year, the Ministry through the New Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC), will be constructing a $14 million agro-processing facility to assist farmers with adding value and extending the shelf life of their produce.
This disclosure was made by Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha during a recent meeting with residents and farmers in St. Ignatius, Region Nine.
“We want to ensure your produce is more valuable by helping you to process these commodities so that you can earn more. This year we’ll expend $14 million to construct an agro-processing facility right in St. Ignatius. We’ll also refurbish the existing facility and install equipment to process peanuts and cashew nuts. A peanut sheller and a peanut skin remover will be installed. The facility will also have all the necessary equipment to make peanut butter, jams, and jellies, as well as coolers, chillers, and industrial scales. So this facility will be of an international standard,” Minister Mustapha said.
The subject Minister also said that the Ministry, through the New GMC will be working to find markets for these agro-processed commodities.
“If we are going to help you to add value to your produce we have to help you find markets. Officers from the New GMC will be more present in the Region to work with you and find steady markets for your produce. We have a number of areas where we can tap into. For instance, Caribbean countries import between US $6 to $8 billion in agriculture produce annually. Our local supermarkets are selling peanut butter, jams, and jellies that were imported from overseas. We will ensure we work with you to bring your products to an international standard so that you can access those markets both locally and internationally,” Minister Mustapha said.
In addition to the agro-processing facility, Minister Mustapha also told villagers that, this year, the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) will be procuring a number of tractors outfitted with ploughs to assist farmers with land preparation. These tractors, he said, will be stationed in different villages in the Region.
Phillip Baretto, a Senior Councilor from Quarrie, a satellite village of St. Ignatius, said that villagers need assistance with land preparation to cultivate in the Savannah.
“We in Quarrie are farmers. We always farm. That is our job and what we do for a living. Minister we have been doing farming with our regular hoes, cutlasses, axe, and for some time now we’ve been getting assistance with ploughing our farms from the agriculture department. Minister, we want to plant more in the Savannah. We are giving our forests some time to catch themselves so that they can get back to a standard because we all use the forest. We want to do the savannah planting but we would need additional help and we would also need some fertilizer for the soil because the soil in the Savannah is not rich like the soil in the forest,” Baretto said.
Other farmers present said that would like assistance with rice production, as well as technical support for cash crop production and aquaculture.
Minister Mustapha told villagers that a new system is in place to ensure extension officers in the Region are more responsive. He also said there will now be improved channels of communication between Regional officials and agriculture officers stationed in the Region.
After the meeting Minister Mustapha distributed fertilizer and other planting material to farmers. He informed them that the Ministry will be assisting them with more chemicals and planting material to them periodically.