“Agriculture in a better position now because Gov’t understands the importance of the sector” – Min. Mustapha tells Reg. 7 farmers
– says gov’t ready to make resources available to advance agriculture in the region
– encourages farmers to ramp up production of cassava to satisfy Barbados cassava flour market
Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha while recommitting the government’s support for farmers has maintained that Guyana’s agriculture sector is in a better position presently than it was for five years prior to August 2020.
The minister made these remarks while addressing farmers from riverine communities along the Mazaruni River in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni). He told farmers that the government’s philosophy has always been keen on ensuring Guyana has a vibrant, diverse, and resilient agriculture sector.
“Agriculture has, for the most part, been seen as one of the most important sectors in Guyana. This is the sector that guarantees food security. Guyana is one of only three countries in the region that produces over 50% of its food. For five years prior to August 2020 however, agricultural development in Guyana took a back seat. This was evident in the noticeable decline in budgetary allocation to the sector during that period. If we look at what was done between 2015 and 2020 and compare it to what was and is being done from August 2020 to now; this government is doing far more for our farmers,” Minister Mustapha said.
Minister Mustapha met with farmers from River’s View, Karrau, Batavia, Kartabo, Falmouth, Itaballi, and Westerbeck on Thursday last to address agricultural issues faced in the communities. The visit was part of a two-day outreach to the region following a commitment made by His Excellency, President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali who visited the region last week.
During the meetings, several farmers sought the assistance of the minister by providing technical support in the form of advice on what crops to cultivate based on the various soil types and makeup as well as pest and disease management. Other farmers requested assistance in the form of better drainage for their farmlands, planting materials to expand their cultivation, shadehouse materials, and farming implements such as gardening tools, among other things.
At the end of the meetings, Minister Mustapha said that many of the requests made by the farmers were attainable in the short term while others require a more detailed approach.
“Most of the farmers requested planting materials such as seeds, seedlings, and Acoushi Ants bait all of which will be made available and distributed to the villages free of charge. Requests were also made for things such as tillers and other farming tools. Through the ministry, these items will also be made available to the villages so that all the farmers can have access to them. In terms of technical support, our extension teams from the Guyana Livestock Development Authority and the National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute will return to the villages within a week to meet with the farmers and develop a plan because we have to work with a plan. I’ve already committed to having NAREI facilitate the necessary soil testing and guidance so that the farmers can know what to plant and what can be planted. The New GMC will also collaborate on this aspect. Extension services will also be ramped up. From next week, extension officers will have to meet with these farmers at least once monthly. GLDA will also work with farmers to increase their livestock production since many farmers said they needed assistance in that area. For instance, farmers from Karrau Creek said that they would like to get into poultry rearing on a larger scale so the ministry through the GLDA will make 25 Black Giant birds available to each household so that we can help them advance in this regard.
We’ll also make a fogging machine, shadehouse materials, tillers, cassava mills, gardening tools, and bongo pumps for the management of Acoushi Ants available to these farmers. All of these things will be made available to the villages before the end of July,” the minister explained.
In terms of better drainage, Minister Mustapha explained that flooding in these areas is mostly due to persistent rainfall and overtopping of the rivers and lakes. He told the farmers that a team from the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) will be visiting the areas soon to determine how best the ministry can assist with developing a plan to ensure farmers have better drainage.
Minister Mustapha told the farmers that there was a great demand in Barbados for cassava flour and that Guyana was the only country in the region that was able to meet that demand. He told the farmers, most of them who cultivate cassava, that they should take advantage of this opportunity and that the ministry was willing to make the necessary resources available to facilitate increased production of cassava, as well as processing and packaging of cassava flour.
“While I was in Barbados a few weeks ago with the President, we received many requests for cassava flour. Our farmers are in a position to satisfy that market because we have the land. The ministry can make the necessary resources available to assist you with tapping into that market. The ministry has already made over 50 cassava mills available to villages in Region Nine. We Can make mills available to communities here so that you can produce cassava flour. Through the New GMC, we can also assist with facilitating the necessary processing and packaging to make these products attractive because we are promoting value-added production. If we want maximum prices for these products, we have to do value-added because that is the direction the world is heading,” Minister Mustapha said.