Specialised staff to advance new programmes in Guyana’s agriculture sector – Minister Mustapha

Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha said financial provisions were made for specialists to be employed to advance several new initiatives by the ministry.

Responding to questions from the opposition during the consideration of the budget estimates Tuesday evening, the minister disclosed that the agriculture ministry had previously engaged the Ministry of Public Service to ensure the required personnel are employed to fill the important positions.

Minister Mustapha examines one of the young soya bean plants

“When I spoke at the budget debates, I said that the ministry is embarking on a number of new programmes. We are also looking at specialised personnel to fill these vacancies. The ministry has since been working very closely with the Ministry of Public Service so that we can have specialised persons to fill these positions. We have aquaculture as an emerging specialised industry, so we’ll need specialised personnel. We have new crops that were never grown in Guyana like corn and soya bean and other non-traditional crops. We are also concentrating on high-value crops so we need specialised people.

We have been working assiduously to ensure we have these persons employed so that the ministry can be prepared to diversify and increase production over the next year,” Minister Mustapha said.

Agriculture Minister Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha gets a closer look at some broccoli currently being cultivated at NAREI’s farm at Mon Repos

He said further, that the process is ongoing and will continue until the most qualified candidates are employed.

The government, during its 2020 and 2021 budget presentations, highlighted the need for new programmes to advance the productive sectors. One such programme is the corn and soya bean project. The programme forms part of government’s agenda to advance the agriculture sector, while reducing the import bill for proteins used in the livestock sector.

A section of the trial plot for soya bean in the Tacama Savannah

In 2021, the government had partnered with a team of local investors who began cultivating corn and soya bean in the Tacama Savannah. In 2021, $500 million was allocated to commence infrastructural works in the area to facilitate the trial exercise which was undertaken by the group.

This included the cultivation of 111 acres of soya bean, and five acres of corn, which yielded approximately 2.3 tons per hectare.

The initial aim of the government is to facilitate the cultivation of 56,000 acres or 22,400 hectares to be able to satisfy the local demand, after which, cultivation for export to markets in the region will be targeted.

A section of one of the model shadehouses being constructed at NAREI

Additionally, the government has also embarked on introducing large-scale production of high-value crops like broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots.

His Excellency, Dr. Mohammed Irfan Ali, recently launched the Agriculture and Innovation Entrepreneurship Programme, which seeks to give budding agriculturalists an opportunity to contribute to the growth and development of Guyana’s agriculture sector, while earning substantial remunerations given the high market value of these crops.

This year, twenty-five (25) shadehouses will be constructed as part of the first phase of the initiative. As the programme advances, up to 300 shadehouses will be constructed across the country.

Construction of five model shadehouses is currently ongoing at the National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute’s (NAREI) Mon Repos farm. These model shadehouses will be used to guide the beneficiaries on best practices and good crop husbandry to ensure they get the best results out of the project.