Rice farmers seeing higher yields despite lower acreages sown
─ with harvesting at 65 per cent, national average stands at over 6 tonnes per hectare
Although for the past two years farmers were adversely affected due to climate change resulting in shortened opportunities for sowing and harvesting, collaborative efforts between farmers and the government through the Ministry of Agriculture’s Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) have seen the national yield for the second crop of 2022 averaging over six tonnes per hectare.
This is according to Agriculture Minister, Honourable Zulfikar Mustapha. During his weekly sector update programme, the minister revealed that the improvements were a result of farmers applying the correct agronomic practices, as well as the government’s intervention to ensure farmers had the necessary support throughout the production cycle.
“Over the last two years, the weather conditions were very unfavourable. Although we’ve experienced this and what the pandemic has done with other input costs associated with rice production, we persevered, achieving higher production figures and yields than we did last year. When you compare 2021 production figures to that of 2022, because we are indeed harvesting the last crop of 2022, we’ve surpassed those levels. If we didn’t have the issues we had, we would’ve had a bumper crop.
“With the crop that we are currently reaping, we’ve seen that yields have increased tremendously, to over six tonnes per hectare. That shows a marked improvement where the weather condition is concerned. So far, we’ve had favourable weather conditions for reaping and generally for the entire crop. I am hoping that for the second crop of 2023, we’ll have a bumper crop; a record-breaking production,” he noted.
While acknowledging that input costs continue to pose challenges to farmers, Minister Mustapha said that the government has been working to lower the cost of production, improve yields, and offer support to farmers across the country.
“The government is cognisant of the fact that input cost for production has increased tremendously. However, we’ve made resources available to assist with this. As you know, we assisted farmers with fertiliser subsidies for the last crop in 2022. We’ve been giving seed paddy to farmers. We’ve expended hundreds of millions of dollars to rehabilitate dams as well as drainage and irrigation structures. Immediately when we returned to office, land rental and D&I charges were reduced to bring down the cost. We’ve implemented measures to make other input costs more affordable and we’ve been working with the farmers to improve yields.”
Minister Mustapha noted that a joint team consisting of scientists from the GRDB and GRMEA (Guyana Rice Millers and Exporters Association) has traveled to Brazil to gain technical knowledge on how Guyana’s seed-producing facility and production can be enhanced in order to have higher-yielding seeds. With this, he added, the national average can be moved from over six tonnes to close to eight to ten tonnes per hectare.
GRDB’s Deputy General Manager, Mr. Kuldip Ragnauth while noting that to date harvesting is just about 56 per cent complete, lower-yielding farmers have seen increases in their yields through the support of the board and its training sessions on better agronomic practices.
“The yields have been exceedingly good despite the challenges faced during the crop. Those challenges were overcome in the sense that the less acreage sown was compensated in some way by the higher yields that we received for this crop. These yields were achieved because the board would’ve aggressively pursued its programme of training for farmers in terms of the improved technologies that are available.
“We also worked with the lower-yielding farmers; those farmers who were achieving 25 bags per acre or less; they were targeted and given special attention, assistance, and support from the board in order for them to increase their level of performance and ultimately their yields,” he explained.
According to Ragnauth, some 85 per cent of the acreage sown in Region Four has been harvested, followed by Region Six with 61 per cent, Region Five with 58 per cent, Region Three with 45 per cent; and Region Two with 39 per cent.