Meaningful changes to come in agriculture sector
Guyana’s agriculture sector has always been a major foundation stone for the country’s economic growth development. And with a new administration in place, a number of meaningful changes are poised to take place.
The Ministry of Agriculture has been working assiduously for the revitalization of agriculture in the hinterland for example and has aligned its work programme to realize the Intermediate Savannahs as the next agricultural center. It has also prioritized the implementation of policies for development of the Rupununi Savannahs.
In its quest to achieve the second pillar of Government’s economic plan, National Infrastructure, the Ministry has commenced the establishment and in some instances re-established agricultural stations in each of the main Eco-zones of Guyana.
This is being done to nurture integration between the coast and hinterland and to increase access to the bountiful resources of the hinterland. Some of these include the following:
North West District: Region 1 – Wauna – Quarantine Station Agriculture Station
The Pakaraimas: Region 8 – Kato- Rehabilitate facility and Agriculture station
The Rupununi savannahs: Region 9 – Manari – Agriculture station
The Intermediate Savannahs: Region 10 – Ebini
These Agricultural stations will demonstrate the agricultural potential of these areas including demonstration orchards, nurseries and seed production units for the production of planting material relevant to each Eco zone, breeding herds of cattle and small ruminants to provide breeding stock for farmers and seed stock for entrepreneurs.
These stations will have multiple functions such as research areas, housing, and office space, mechanical and other workshops, recreational facilities and teaching facilities.
It was also noted that during 2015, work had begun on updating the various studies on the Agricultural Development of the Intermediate Savannahs.
Large scale agriculture in the savannahs will commence in 2016 with the production of Soybeans by the Brazilian company New Frontier Agriculture Inc. in the Kimbia/Ebini savannahs.
While a feasibility study for the Agricultural Development of the Rupununi Savannahs does exist, this will be updated and expanded during 2016 with a view to the logical expansion in that area along the lines of the Santa Fe model which is in the process of development in the North Rupununi savannahs.
These initiatives will create new employment opportunities, both directly, and more so, indirectly as the country’s economic base is moved inland and will complement other activities such as mining, forestry and support service activities thereto appertaining.
As for rice, it is clear that Guyana has some major challenges to address in this regard. However, in 2016, the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) said that it will continue to push its mandate, to enable better services offered to farmers in the areas of research and extension, quality control and marketing.
Moreover, the cost of production of paddy and rice is a major hindrance to Guyana’s competitiveness in world markets. While Guyana has the ability to produce high volumes of rice, the cost of production impedes our ability to compete.
To overcome this hurdle, the GRDB focuses heavily on research and extension. Research focuses on Plant Breeding, Agronomy (Soils & Weeds), Pathology, Entomology and Seed Production. While the extension arm promotes conditions for access and transfer of improved rice varieties and crop management practices for farmers.
The Board in 2016 will be enhancing its research capabilities. Research in plant breeding will be done with the aim of having increased yields for local varieties. New aromatic varieties will also be developed supporting the expansion of the production of the GRDB 13 the current aromatic variety.
Regarding the marketing of our produce, Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder said that trade will be a key element in the Sustainable Development of the rice industry. At the Rice Conference held in July 2015, he implored all millers and exporters to collate their efforts and to partner with the government to ensure that they focus on finding and sustaining markets.
He said that the Government will continue to make investments that are necessary to fully support the agricultural sector.
Guyana has been exporting rice consistently for over 100 years. Continuing the export growth that the rice industry has experienced over the past five years, existing markets will be maintained whilst new markets will be pursued. A new market for paddy, according to the Government, is being pursued in Mexico, whilst additional markets for both paddy and rice are being pursued in Europe and other countries.
Holder said, “With our marketing situation, some good news emerge with Guyana's first Specialty Rice, our Aromatic Rice. After introduction on the domestic market, we are preparing to trade this high priced product on the international market. Aromatic rice is currently being traded at US$700-1200 per tonne as compared with regular rice US$350-450 per tonne. This could very well carve the future directions for rice production and trade for Guyana as it has a significantly higher market price.”
“GRDB will continue to monitor the supply and prices of fertilizers and chemicals and will pursue avenues of having these inputs available to farmers at competitive prices. To foster the continuous growth of the rice industry, investing in key infrastructure is also mandatory. GRDB will commence preliminary work on a new headquarters inclusive of a new quality control laboratory.”
Holder said that consistency has led to reliability in the industry and the government will continue to pay emphasis and make the relevant interventions.
The Agriculture Minister added, “We will not stop here. We will ensure that more markets are tapped into with a view to Guyana’s rice being available worldwide expanding from the present 38 countries to which we currently export.”