─ contracts to be awarded shortly
Government is moving apace with its commitment to provide free fertiliser to rice farmers nationwide, to absorb the rising worldwide costs for the key farming commodity.
President, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali had announced on May 16, that $1 billion has been set aside to support the country’s agriculture sector with the purchase of fertiliser.
The significant sum was drawn from the $5 billion allocated by the National Assembly in this year’s fiscal package, to implement workable plans to ease the burden of citizens.
On Monday, Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha engaged members of the Rice Farmers Fertiliser Registration and Verification Committee, at the ministry’s boardroom.
The verification group is responsible for selecting farmers who cultivated and are duly in need of the assistance. It comprises farmers from several rice producing districts across Guyana, including Regions Two, Three, Four, Five and Six.
Minister Mustapha said while the prospective recipients are anticipating the roll out of the initiative, the name confirmation process is important to ensure equitable distribution.
“I want us to have a clean and transparent list a list that reflects what is going on in the country in terms of those persons who would have cultivated their lands,” he explained.
“Let us ensure that we have these persons who are entitled receive and receive what they deserve. A person shouldn’t receive short or shouldn’t receive more,” the minister added.
Minister Mustapha disclosed that the contracts to secure the fertiliser will be awarded to suppliers before the end of the week.
He said although some 168,000 acres of rice have been sown for the second crop to date, the ministry anticipates about 200,000 acres being cultivated countrywide, as more rice lands are currently being sown.
According to the list submitted to the minister, just about 31,884acres of rice were sown to date in Region Two, while farmers in Region Three cultivate 14,370 acres of rice. The document stated 7,440 acres were cultivated in Region Four, 58,062 acres in Region Five and 57,220 acres in Region Six.
However, farmers representing Region Three have asked for the committee members and officials from the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) to validate the information, as they believe more lands were cultivated.
The minister has since instructed to carry out the exercise soonest to address the concern, noting that by Friday his office must receive the correct number.
Additionally, the agriculture minister stressed the importance of the productive sector. He gave the reason why large investment are being made, citing that it rakes in a massive sum of revenue into Guyana.
“This is a substantial help for you all to ensure that we go back to the crop. Hopefully we can get better yield. I am not so optimistic about the weather pattern, this is real climate change, we had to device some strategy. I am hoping that by next year, we will bring out a better variety,”
Meanwhile, Minister Mustapha said the next year farmers will also have the opportunity to cultivate the new high-value biofortified rice variety, which trials have shown great success to date.
The rice variety, which has been biofortified with zinc, is a partnership initiative between the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB).
This massive collaboration comes at a time when the PPP/C Administration is making massive investments to double rice production over the next five years.
Additionally, Minister Mustapha pointed out that his ministry is also looking at giving rice farmers in large group, the responsibility of maintaining canals in the areas.
“So, they will maintain them instead of giving outside people, who are not doing the work properly. If the rice farmers have the contract, they are the beneficiary, they will ensure that it is clean to their satisfaction,” he contended.