Farmers to begin receiving promised fertiliser assistance soon
On Monday, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha along with officials from the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) met with members of the Rice Farmers’ Fertiliser Assistance Registration and Verification Committee to discuss the government’s fertilizer assistance programme which was announced last May by President Dr. Irfaan Ali.
The meeting was held to discuss the lists of rice farmers per region who were eligible for the fertiliser assistance based on information gathered by the various committee members represented.
During the meeting, Minister Mustapha disclosed that, to date, approximately 168,000 acres had been sown but that it was anticipated that that figure would increase before the end of the advised sowing period, which is scheduled to close at the end of the month.
“To date, we have just about 168,000 acres that were sown but we are anticipating that by the end of this month, that total will increase because people are still sowing. I’m very optimistic that by the end of the sowing period this figure will increase to just about 200,000 acres. At the end of the process, we have to ensure the persons who are entitled receive and receive what they deserve. Hopefully, before the week is out the contract for the fertilizers will be awarded to suppliers. Once this is done, farmers will receive their vouchers and can begin collecting fertilizers from those suppliers,” he noted.
While going through the lists submitted by the committee for the various regions for acres sown to date, Minister Mustapha disclosed that Region Two had recorded some 31,884 acres sown, Region Three had recorded some 14,370 acres sown, Region Four had recorded some 7,440 acres sown, Region Five had recorded some 58,062 acres sown, and Region Six had recorded some 57,270 acres sown.
Referencing the issues faced during the flood relief exercise, Minister Mustapha urged the committee members to ensure the lists were transparent and accurately reflected the activities in the various regions.
“We do not want to end up in a situation where people point fingers at the end of the exercise saying that people who lost did not receive relief and people who did not lose received relief as was and still is the case with the flood relief exercise. I want us to have a clean and transparent list. A list that reflects what is taking place right now in the country in terms of persons who cultivated this crop,” he said.
Since taking office, the government has announced several relief initiatives targeting various categories of Guyanese in a bid to ease the rising cost of living. Minister Mustapha said that given the impact of the global pandemic and the war in Ukraine, the government has been making sizable budgetary allocations to fund its various relief and assistance initiatives.
“We know that persons in the industry needed help. Fertilizer prices were going up. Rice is an important commodity for us. It earns the country a lot of revenue. This is why the government is giving assistance to these sectors; these are productive sectors,” the minister said.
Farmers also raised concerns about the quality of fertilizer currently on the market, noting that they are now forced to use 50% more on their crops. Minister Mustapha informed them that the ministry’s Pesticide and Toxic Chemicals Control Board (PTCCB) now has the capacity to test those inputs to ensure they meet the standard required for their intended purposes.
President Ali had announced that the government will be purchasing and distributing, free of cost, $1 billion in fertilizers to both cash crop and rice farmers all across Guyana as a means of absorbing the rising global costs for the commodity and to prevent the costs from being passed on to consumers at the market.
The $1 billion will be drawn from the $5 billion the government had set aside in the 2022 national budget to implement measures to ease the cost of living for citizens, which is caused by the external economic shocks from the COVID-19 pandemic and the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Of the $1 billion announced, $900 million will go towards the procurement of fertilizer for the rice industry, while the remaining $100 million will be given to persons cultivating cash crops.