Guyana is now the first country in the Latin America and Caribbean region (LAC) to cultivate a bio-fortified rice variety (GRDB IICA 17), at preferential prices, providing a healthier option to the nation.
This is according to Prime Minister Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips, who officially launched the new strain (G18-113) for farmers to cultivate in Guyana for the first crop of 2024. The rice variety contains 17 to 20mg per a kilogram of zinc.
The launch took place on Saturday at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, Liliendaal where the Agri-Investment Forum and Expo is taking place.
Speaking at the simple ceremony held in the presence of farmers from across the country, Prime Minister Phillips said over the years, the rice industry has significantly contributed to the agriculture sector of the country, while upholding the food security agenda and providing employment opportunities to the rural communities.
And to aid in this, he said the government has invested heavily to improve the capability of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) to conduct the “appropriate” research for the variety.
“Recognising the importance of zinc in our daily lives, the GRDB developed a locally breed rice variety with high levels of zinc content,” the Prime Minister said.
He explained, “in addition to being highly nutritious, this rice is a good economic choice for farmers as it possesses excellent early vigour, a good plant type and high yield potential…that will contribute to increasing the economic growth of our country through preferential prices and increase market value.”
The development of the bio-fortified rice variety, the Prime Minister said will “open the door” to unimaginable opportunities for Guyana.
And he noted that the GRDB has already developed the strategies needed for the cultivation, processing and marketing of the zinc-enriched specialty rice.
“Agriculture is now transitioning towards nutrition rich crops…Bio-fortified rice provides a sustainable alternative option to chemical food addictive,” he said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha said with the cultivation of this variety of rice, farmers will have the opportunity to enjoy preferential prices.
“This variety will not get the same prices as we are getting now for the varieties that are there. I hope this will be a high-yielding variety,” Mustapha said.
He added, “a country like us that is leading the charge today in CARICOM and we want to reduce the food import bill by 25 percent in another two years from now, this is the way to go.”
The Agriculture Minister said he hopes farmers will start to cultivate the bio-fortified rice variety in large scale.
“And Guyana can start have rice where we will have a very healthy supplement and we will improve not only the income of our farmers but improve health of our nation, the Caribbean nation,” he said.