High-value crop production yields remarkable results

President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali conducted a site visit to the shade houses at the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), located in Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara, to personally assess the progress of the onion project and high-value crops.

Accompanying him were key figures including Jagnarine Singh, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NAREI, Tisha Mangra-Singh, CEO of Agriculture and Innovation Entrepreneurship Programme (AIEP), Madanlall Ramraj, Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture, and other officials.

President, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali being provided with an update on the onion project at NAREI

During the visit, Mangra-Singh provided a comprehensive update, revealing that the 54 shade houses had yielded notable results for the year. The produce included two tonnes of chili peppers, two tonnes of hot peppers, one tonne of carrots, over 50,000 heads of lettuce, and 2.4 tonnes of cauliflowers. The cultivation extended to other crops such as kale, mint, ‘blue star’ sweet peppers, celery, cilantro, and parsley, with each shade house generating 1,000 to 1,500 heads of lettuce every three weeks.

The harvested produce serves various purposes, supplying the local community, NAREI’s market day, hotels, and farmers’ markets with high-quality produce at competitive prices. Notably, the high-value crops cultivated are in demand not only in Guyana but also throughout the Caribbean.

Broccoli being grown in one of the shade houses

NAREI plays a pivotal role in supporting beneficiaries by providing essential infrastructure such as shade houses, technical systems, and extensions. Significantly, Guyana has emerged as a supplier of shade houses to the Caribbean, with 30 shade houses designated for Barbados, two for Grenada, and 20 for Trinidad and Tobago.

Moreover, there are approximately 317 shade houses established in various schools across the country.

President Ali interacting with one of the students

President Ali, during the inspection, also focused on the onion project spanning 2.6 acres of land. The Brazilian variety of onions, imported to reduce the country’s dependence on imports, demonstrated a harvest of about 9.5 tonnes per acre across the 12 beds. The President was informed that onions could be produced twice a year with favourable results.

Expressing optimism, President Ali highlighted the potential impact of scaling up the onion project, “Once, we go after those 200 acres [of onions], we will replace all of our imports for onions. We will replace all the special types of lettuce, cucumber, pakchoi, and then, target the regional markets.”  

Onion project at NAREI

He emphasised the strategic targeting of regional markets, foreseeing a reduction in the cost of food imports for the region and a significant contribution to national food security.