Rice farmers urged to follow strict safety process to protect export markets


By Lazeena Yearwood


Guyana risks losing its largest international buyer of rice if farmers do not follow strict safety limits on agrochemicals (pesticides), Plant Pathologist Dr Rajendra Persaud has warned.

Amid concerns of pesticide residue in rice and other exported food products, the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) has once again advised farmers to comply with the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL).

The European Union (EU) is currently Guyana’s largest export market for rice with 46 per cent of it being sold to EU countries in 2022.

But on the heels of a recent refusal to purchase because of pesticide residue, Dr Persaud has reiterated the importance of farmers’ compliance to maintain this relationship.

“The EU has put in place MRL for over 50,000 different pesticides. Basically, it’s a safeguard mechanism for us to restrict or have a restriction in terms of the usage of the imidacloprid pronto so that we can protect one of our largest rice markets.

Plant Pathologist attached at the GRDB, Dr Rajendra Persaud (Photo: Stabroek News)

“This the sensitization programme began because only recently we had a shipment of rice went to the EU and those rice were rejected because of high MRL,” Dr Persaud said.

The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) recently conducted a study of paddy bugs to reduce their impact on rice cultivation here. This was to secure the country’s rice export markets, preserve the ecosystem, and aid in food security.

The GRBD recommended some pesticides that show low residue. Dr Persaud said the GRBD has found that some pesticides, which have higher residue, are picked up by the EU.

Dr Persaud indicated that the rice industry could face severe consequences if farmers fail to comply.

“Farmers failing to comply or adhering to this advisory or the restrictive use of the imidacloprid can seriously jeopardise the European market and secondly if that market shuts off, you know what could happen to the rice industry,” Dr Persaud warned.

He said there are farmers who are more open to the changes and some who stick with the old technology. The GRBD has compiled a list of insecticides that can be used based on the 2022 trials and some of which are recommended for a rotation schedule.

But Dr Persaud suggests that farmers use these insecticides early, or when the first paddy bugs are observed, in order to avoid a large infestation.

According to the EU, in 2020, samples randomly collected from 12 food products, including brown rice, were found with pesticide residue.

But with the use of insecticide, pesticide residue or the trace of pesticide compound remains on the crop, water, soil, and air. This can pose serious constrain to a person’s health and the environment.

However, the GRDB has said a National Monitoring and Surveillance Strategy was established here. It is also evaluating new insecticides, which are being recommended.

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