– Agri Minister tells farmers rice strategic in national prosperity
The Ministry of Agriculture on Saturday launched Guyana’s newest rice variety, GRDB 16, at the Burma Rice Research Station in Mahaicony, Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice).
The new variety of rice, which has the potential to produce up to 60 bags per acre – an equivalent to an average of nine tonnes per hectare, has demonstrated several qualities that have been desired by rice farmers for a number of years, according to a report from the Department of Public Information (DPI).
Earlier in the month when the variety was still considered a candidate variety, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha along with a team from the Ministry and the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) visited one of the demonstration plots in Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara) to get a first-hand look at the performance of the variety while under cultivation.
During that tour, it was observed that indeed, just as the data suggested, GRDB 16 had the characteristics of a premium game-changing variety which maintained its greenness throughout the crop, did not lodge as fast as the other varieties and can come through standing water of up to nine inches. It was also noted that GRDB 16 takes only 110 days to reach its maturity stage.
Addressing the gathering at the launch on Saturday, Minister Mustapha noted that the Government has been working closely with stakeholders to impact a positive change in the current conditions present in the sector.
“Since taking leadership of the agriculture sector, we have been working to address the constraints faced by farmers to strengthen the working relationships and work ethics of the main players in the industry, as well as supporting the research, development, and transfer of technology for the farmers. This is very important if we want to develop the rice industry in our country. We will provide a favourable environment and grant special incentives for all investors in the rice industry,” Mustapha said.
The Minister further told the farmers, some of whom travelled from as far as Wakenaam and Leguan on the Essequibo Coast, that rice and agriculture would remain a priority for the PPP/C Government.
“Rice remains a strategic part of the Government’s plan for prosperity. Given the annual contribution to Guyana’s GDP, we can see that you, the rice farmers are making a tremendous contribution to the development of our country, which amounts to about $46.7 billion of foreign exchange in our country. The importance of this industry cannot be emphasised enough, and rest assured that the Government will not, in any way, shape or form, turn away from the rice industry. Government has made it very clear that rice is not a private business, but rather a Guyanese business,” Mustapha posited.
According to the Agriculture Minister, rice remains the main staple of Guyana’s population in terms of food security, and now that the world is being threatened with food insecurity due to the negative impact on the productive sector as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, rice has helped to secure Guyana’s status as a food-secure country.
For the past 15 years, the GRDB has been releasing new varieties of rice to farmers, each demonstrating improved characteristics from the previous one. To date, the GRDB has released nine varieties, each variety having higher yields than previously released varieties.
GRDB’s Chief Scientist, Dr Mahendra Persaud, said that with this new variety, Guyana’s rice productivity levels will increase tremendously. He pointed out that Guyana current produces six tonnes per hectares and only about 15 of the 100 rice-producing countries around the world have achieved over six tonnes per hectare.
“I would like to see our productivity increasing constantly, hopefully achieving seven tonnes per hectare in the coming years. This candidate variety that we launched today has demonstrated a good partnership between the researcher and the farmer, because without the farmers we couldn’t have achieved the type of results that we have today,” Dr Mahendra noted.
He also spoke about the need for new varieties in order to improve the production levels of the farmers.
Meanwhile, Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture, Madanlall Ramraj, while thanking farmers for making their lands available to be used as demonstration plots, said that the rice industry has been a success story for a number of years and that the achievement of a new rice variety has put Guyana’s paddy and rice in a position where it is able to compete with other major rice-producing nations around the world.
Rice Producers Association (RPA) Representative, Leakha Rambrich said that it is important for farmers to understand that while the GRDB 16 appears to have great potential, farmers must allow the variety to work its way up into the system.
“We’ve seen the danger in allowing one of our varieties to dominate 45 per cent of our country’s cultivation. This would not be good for the country in terms of pests and disease control. I’m sure farmers are very anxious to get seeds for this variety to go into the fields when you hear that this variety will give you over 50 bags per acre… As the RPA President, I can tell you that it has the potential, it is a very good variety and it would do well for the industry,” Rambrich stated.
The RPA President also took the opportunity to condemn those millers who, for years, continue to take advantage of farmers, as well as address the high volumes of substandard quality of fertilisers that have appeared on the market over the past few years.
Farmers who attended the event all shared that they were eager to have seeds from this new variety to commence their first crop of 2021. One farmer who travelled from Wakenaam said that he was impressed with the GRDB 15, and after hearing about the qualities of this new variety, remains optimistic that it will boost his production significantly.