Agri. Ministry assures Cane Grove farmers of continued investment

Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha has assured Cane Grove, Mahaica farmers that the Government would continue to invest in the rice industry, during a Farmer’s Exchange Visit/Field Day in that community on Wednesday.

The engagement, which was hosted by the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) aimed at sharing data and experience relating to the cultivation of the GRDB 16 rice variety, which was launched last year.

Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha

During the exercise, farmers from rice producing regions said the variety has potential, as they had experienced less paddy damage, good field sanitation, and low damage to the crop, which led to more yield.

Minister Mustapha commended the engagement, noting that in addition to Government support, collaboration among stakeholders is also vital to expanding the industry.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Country Representative, Dr. Gillian Smith delivers her address.

“We recognise the importance of the sector. We recognise the importance this sector plays in our GDP. What we have done, we said that we would reverse all the harsh measures that were in the backs of the farmers in this sector and we have done just that.

Farmers in Essequibo alone are saving $35 million annually with those fees coming off and with VAT coming off and with the inputs in agriculture.  Farmers also saving $11,500 per acre because of the measures we have put in place since last October,” he said.

GRDB General Manager (Ag.) Mr. Kuldip Ragnauth

The Minister also reminded the farmers of the sums allocated to the sector in the 2020 budget and the allocations made in Budget 2021 to advance the sector.  

“Last year we would have expended $18.5 billion in the agriculture sector. This year, we would have increased that by 23 per cent from $18.5 to $22.6 billion that we will be expending this year. We recognise that it is important that we have proper facilities for the farmers.

Mr. Madanlall Ramraj, Chairman of the GRDB

 The dams have to be in good conditions. The canals need to be cleaned regularly. We have to have good structurers. That is why the Drainage and Irrigation sector alone this year, we will be spending $12.5 billion to ensure that recap the entire system,” he said.

Minister Mustapha noted that the rice industry has the protentional to bring in more foreign exchange to the country. He also said more research will be done on fertilisers for the farmers, adding that production must double by 2025.

Minister Mustapha also called on the GRDB heads to host similar exercises across the country.

Farmers sharing their experiences

Meanwhile, in her address, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Country Representative, Dr. Gillian Smith said the FAO would continue to work with Guyana to help it reach its development goals.

“We have been happy since Minister Mustapha has been here, to be working very closely along with Minister. Minister has a very dynamic and practical approach to everything and from the very first time I had a meeting with Minister, one of the things I was very clear about was his commitment to farmers and to being on the ground.

Minister has always said that in the field it is good to have the talk, it’s good to have the plans, but we need to know and we need to see very quickly, where the rubber hits the road, where the work we are doing is very much in line with what you are doing and your efforts on a daily basis,” she said.

GRDB General Manager (Ag.) Mr. Kuldip Ragnauth said the purpose of the Field Days is to give farmers the opportunity to make an assessment of the technology the agency is promoting and to share their views. He said more field days would be held as they are “the trademark of the GRDB.”

Farmers sharing their experiences

Meanwhile, Mr. Madanlall Ramraj, Director General at the Ministry and GRDB Chairman, said the rice industry has made positive strides over the years and Guyana can compete with other rice producing countries.

“We will continue to do under our Minister and under the Government of Guyana, policy in respect of food security and to improve the livelihood of farmers across the country,” he said.

He too encouraged farmers across the country to collaborate so that the industry can continue to thrive.