Mustapha certain rice industry will flourish in 2023

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With significant attention directed towards boosting rice production and finding new markets, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha told the National Assembly that the rice industry will flourish in 2023.

Speaking in the National Assembly during the 2023 Budget Debate, he said the agricultural sector is the bedrock of Guyana’s non-oil economy.

As such, he posited that the government is keen on investing in the sector to guarantee that the country is able to feed itself and earn from exporting produce to foreign nations.

One particular sector set for significant expansion this year, according to Mustapha, is the rice sector. This is so because the government will invest in more land for cultivation, new farm-to-market access roads, new drying floors and research for new varieties of rice.

“This is a sector capable of bringing in large revenues,” he said pointedly.

And so he highlighted that some 170,000 hectares of rice will be planted this year, adding to the eight per cent increase in rice production increases seen in 2022.

Opposition Parliamentarian Vinceroy Jordan during his presentation at the 2023 Budget Debate (Photo: DPI/ January 25, 2023)

Even as Mustapha talked up the government’s plan for continued developments in the rice industry, Opposition Parliamentarian Vinceroy Jordan accused the government of neglecting rice farmers.

“Hundreds of acres of rice lands abandoned, left uncultivated because of the high cost of production.

“Yet in Budget 2023, there is no measure to cushion this and to assist the hundreds of rice farmers to return to their daily living,” Jordan said as he opened up the third day of the 2023 Budget Debates on Wednesday.

Jordan also said that the lucrative rice industry has been on the decline over the past few years. Mustapha did not agree.

The Agriculture Minister reminded the National Assembly that the rice sector recorded an 8.1 per cent expansion in 2022. Production in that year was pegged at 610,595 tonnes.

He also reminded the lawmakers that nearly $1 billion was spent on fertilisers to support farmers grappling with the exorbitant cost of the product.

“When you come to this house, you must come with facts.

“APNU+AFC are now coming to shed crocodile tears about how we run down the rice industry?” Mustapha retorted.

Meanwhile, during his heated presentation at the 2023 Budget Debate, Mustapha also called out the APNU+AFC opposition for their shortcomings in the agricultural sector from 2015 to 2020.

According to him, the APNU+AFC coalition, when in office, downsized the sugar industry causing hardships for at least 7,000 people, increased drainage & irrigation and land rental charges, and lost much-needed markets for locally-produced markers.

Now, however, he said the PPP/C government seeks to provide redress to farmers across the country and revitalise the agricultural sector.

“We will continue this because we recognise the importance of the agriculture sector… and we will diversify it,” Mustapha said.

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