Agriculture Ministry working with farmers to reduce cost of vegetables

By Andrew Carmichael

The Agriculture Ministry is soon to introduce a farmers’ market in Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) to reduce the high cost consumers are asked to pay for locally grown vegetables.
This is according to Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha, who made the announcement on Saturday while visiting farming communities on the East Bank of Berbice.
While pointing out that Government has no control over import prices, Mustapha was of the view that, working together, Government and farmers can reduce the price consumers pay for locally grown food.
Mustapha explained that two factors have resulted in rising food prices: global warming, and the COVID-19 pandemic. He added that the impact of global warming has seen increased rainfall, and in Guyana, there was a countrywide flood last year that severely crippled the agriculture sector.

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha meeting with farmers at Plegtanker

“The temporary crops are coming back on stream, and I am hoping that we can work with the farmers to reduce the cost. A number of permanent crops were destroyed, and we are seeing the effects. Things like plantain, you have almost a nine-month cycle for plantain to grow, so it is almost considered a permanent crop; but things like six-week crops like bora and the other vegetables that we buy, some people are trying to increase those prices and are having a field day to get more money.”

Reduce price to consumers
Mustapha appealed to the farmers who attended meetings at Mara, Plegtanker and Highbury to work with the Ministry in an effort to earn more for their labour and also reduce the price consumers pay for vegetables.
He pointed out that even though plantains are being retailed at some markets at $400 per pound, the farmer is receiving only $100 per pound.
“Famers have received a lot of support from the Peoples Progressive Party Government. We went out of our way to ensure that If not all of the farmers, most of them were given some form of relief,” the Minister reminded.
However, he noted that the farmers must be organised to have prices reduced.
“For us to bring down the cost of vegetables and fruits, our Extension Officers will be working with you to organise a farmers’ market. In Berbice, within the month and a half, I want to see a farmers’ market. We will set up a place for you around the New Amsterdam area and advertise it well, and on a weekly basis, we can have a farmers’ market,” the Minister said.
He said Government has no control over the rising price of fertilisers and other chemicals used in the industry. Nevertheless, he pointed out that Government has engaged its bilateral partners to see if the Government can import fertilizer on a short-term basis.
“Some plants in some parts of the world close because of the high price to produce fertiliser. We are getting it from between $8500 and $10,000 per bag. What we have done is to speak with the importers, and they have reduced their cost. If we didn’t talk to them, they would have increased it more. In the meantime, we are also negotiating with our bilateral partners to see if we can bring in the fertiliser at a cheaper cost, but this here is a temporary issue.”
This is so, he said, because Guyana will soon have the gas-to-shore pipeline. “When we have that, we will produce our own fertilizer, and at that time, fertiliser will be very cheap to farmers. In another three years, when that project comes on stream, we will have our own natural gas to produce our own fertiliser. So, it is a temporary thing, but we are still working to see how we can assist farmers,” the Minister explained.
Meanwhile, at Mara, farmers complained of difficulty getting young orange plants to replace those that died during the prolonged flood last year. Because of the current high demand for young plants, there is a shortage.
Mustapha committed to making 100 orange plants available to those Mara farmers.

Among some of the issues addressed by the Minister during his visit to the three communities were access to cattle pastures and the cleaning of canals. At Highbury, farmers were high in their praise of action taken by the Ministry to clear canals, fulfilling a commitment by the Minister during his last visit to that community.
Farmers from Sisters to Mara, covering a distance of 18 miles, attended the three meetings.