Plans afoot to ensure minimal impact
Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud has said that, at present, the administration is currently making and is still assessing more interventions that could be made to minimise the impact of the extended rainfall on Guyana’s first-quarter export commitments, particularly in the rice and sugar sectors.
The minister said that there were some supplies remaining from last year, and these will be used to complement first quarter exports.
As it relates to the sugar sector, Persaud said, the idea of liberalising the export market was not far-fetched, and may have to be considered.
The sugar sector, in 2008, achieved a first crop production of 103,280 tonnes.
According to the Mid-Year Financial Report for 2008, that performance was influenced by weather-induced delays in harvesting, below-expected worker turnout levels, and unanticipated industrial action.
The first crop export for rice for 2008, according to the Mid-Year Financial Report, was 172,497 tonnes, which did represent an increase over the corresponding period for the previous year.
Persaud was commenting on President Bharrat Jagdeo’s acknowledgement that the flooding along the coastland will have a negative impact on the country’s ability to export some commodities, particularly rice and sugar.
The Head of State was speaking at his first press briefing for the year, before leaving on a trip to Africa and the Middle East.
The President was, however, hopeful that the country would still be able to fulfill its first-quarter commitments to regional and international markets.
The targets will “definitely” have to be adjusted, given the conditions under which farmers will have to produce, he added.
He noted that there was already a steep decline in the export of sugar in 2009, and more than likely the figures will have to be reviewed again, depending on the weather conditions.
According to the President, he could not, at the time, say specifically how much revenue would be lost, but that determination is currently under analysis and will be detailed shortly.
Locally, the floods have already started to have an impact on the market, with consumers having to cope with soaring vegetable prices.
According to Persaud, the specific figures could not be pronounced on as yet, but with the interventions, there is optimism that the impact would be minimal.
The majority of the areas that produce vegetables in Guyana have been inundated, and intense rainfall is projected into March.
Recently, the Alliance For Change Chairman, Khemraj Ramjattan, had called on the President to declare the flood-affected areas, particularly the farmlands, disaster areas, whereby the country could appeal for international help, which is the only approach right now that could prevent catastrophic consequences for the economy.
According to Ramjattan, the administration must start to be honest with the populace and acknowledge the gravity of the situation, and not seek to propagandise any further.
He noted that 40 inches of rainfall in December have already started to take a toll on the markets, with crops such as tomatoes skyrocketing again, this time not from the global financial crisis, but from farmers attempting to capitalize on stock in hand.
He noted that through interactions with farmers, the farmers have already posited that the stocks they have will be sold for higher prices, given that the stocks in the fields are damaged and cannot be sold.
This is currently being experienced on the local markets.
Ramjattan noted also that, with the rains projected to fall at the same unprecedented intensity into March of this year, rice and sugar will be significantly affected.
As it is, several rice fields that should have been reaped early this year are in jeopardy, while some others that should have already been reaped during the November/December period, and have not been, have forced farmers to push back preparations of their fields.
The same situation exists with the sugar industry, as cane would have been cut late last year and have recommenced growth, but with the heavy accumulations of water on the land, the sucrose content in the sugar canes will dwindle, hence extensively reducing sugar supply from those canes.
The AFC Chairman noted that the Government will try to explain that the water which has accumulated on the land is not as high as in the floods of 2005/2006, but the danger lies in the fact that the water will remain in the farmlands until after March, and this will have a devastating impact on the economy.
“The Government was only trying to hide the reality
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