Agri. Minister to address issues in Big/Little Biaboo

On Friday last, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha met scores of farmers from Big and Little Biaboo in an effort to bring some amount of resolution to their issues.

During the meeting, farmers took the opportunity to air a number of concerns plaguing members of the farming community.

Kamal Persaud, a farmer from Big Biaboo, told the Minister that, like many other farmers in the area, aerial spraying has caused tremendous damage to his crops.

“When the big rice farmers spray them rice with aircraft, the drift ah come straight across to all the cash crop farmers. When we meet with those people and air our concern, those people are saying that they are not using the kind of drugs to damage our crops. Comrade Minister, this thing has been happening for years and years and we wish that this problem comes to an end ‘cause to do cash crop is not simple. It’s every day work and people can’t survive on rice alone. The rice goes well with vegetables,” Mr. Persaud said.

Rajpaul Singh, a farmer from Little Biaboo said that extension services needed to be extended to farmers in Region Four. He also asked for the dam to be upgraded so that members of the community could benefit from electricity.

“Most of the extension services being provided in this area is being done in Region Five. If we can get some service in Region Four for the farmers farming across the river and up the river where the officers cannot get access by road. There is an extension officer in the area but because of the condition of the dam, he cannot get access to all the farms. I don’t know if the Ministry can do something by providing an ATV or something of the sort so that the officer can use to do his work. My other concern is; Region Four developmental works; we’ve been asking for the embankment dam, which is the front dam to be uplifted and fixed where necessary and also the clearing of the 300 back canal dam. Right now we are supposed to get GPL pole along the Region Four side of the river but because there’s no proper dam in place there’s nowhere for them to place it in order for the residents to benefit. My next concern is GLDA. We have a lot of small farmers in this area who do livestock, cattle, sheep and goat and stuff. If we could get some assistance in from GLDA. When we go sometimes, they saying that don’t have ducklings and so. We also need breeding animals,” Mr. Singh said.

Anil Bisram, another farmer from the area asked for better monitoring of the structures since farmers are acting in their best interest and making changes to the current structure of the existing dam.

“We get some farmers who cut the crown dam and put some tubing and when the pump ah wok the water can’t move. Some of the tubing, the excavator when it work, break some of the tubing so when you put the door the water still in and out so it can’t regulate the water. Concerning the tubing and the water level, if we can get someone like a ranger in the rainy weather or the dry weather to monitor because some of the farmers doing what they want,” Mr. Bisram said.

Minister Mustapha, while responding the farmers’ concerns, assured them that their issues would be addressed soon.

“In terms of the aerial spraying, I’ve asked Registrar for the Pesticide and Toxic Chemicals Control Board to put a halt on aerial spraying until this matter is settled. A team from the Board will come and meet with you to device a system so that all parties involved are comfortable. In terms of the extension service for Region Four, I’ve asked our Chief Extension Officer, Mr. Kuldip Ragnauth to recruit a person so that we would be able to provide the service to you. I’m hoping that it can start from Monday. We’ll also fix the Number 10 to Biaboo dam that the farmer spoke about and the dam; we’ll put another four outlets so that the water level can reduce,” Minister Mustapha said.

The subject Minister also said that transportation for extension services will soon be made available to officers who need to get to farms that are not so easily accessible.

“The comrade raised the issue about transportation for extension officers, we are working on that. Monday I will be handing over transportation to officers from GLDA. NAREI has also budgeted for transportation for the officers and I’ve instructed the CEO to ensure an ATV is assigned to this area. All the issues with the embankment we’ll address. We have a machine and we’ll send it to this part of the area by the middle of the month to complete the majority of those works. In terms of the issues with GLDA, we did a lot of work in that agency. We’ve revamped the management so if they are still unresponsive to the needs of our farmers going forward please let us know. As long as they have the animals available, farmers in this area have to benefit too. You might not get the quantity you want immediately but you will benefit. I’ll also be giving breeding animals to this area so that it can be used throughout the community. In terms of the ranger, if you find a capable person in the community, we’ll employ that person as a ranger to assist with the monitoring of the structures in the area,” Minister Mustapha said.

Minister Mustapha also said his Ministry plans to regularise farming lands at the MMA-ADA Scheme so that more focus would be placed on small-scale farmers.

Promoting non-traditional crops

During the visit, Minister Mustapha also met Mohanlall Sukhram, a farmer who is currently planting broccoli. Over the years, this non-traditional crop has become very popular among consumers. Locally grown broccoli is usually sold for between $400 and $500 per pound.

Mr. Sukhram currently has 1,200 heads of broccoli under cultivation and is working on expanding his farm to include more broccoli and other non-traditional high value crops.

The Ministry has been encouraging more farmers to plant more non-traditional crops, given the fact that these crops attract high market value and also contribute to a sizable percentage of the country’s food import bill.

Budget 2020 saw incentives being given to persons desirous of planting soya bean and corn. Minister Mustapha, during his last budget presentation, said that Guyana imports close to 40,000 tons of corn and soya bean annually, which amounts to about US $24M.