Jan 13, 2016 News
– Massive losses possible
By Jarryl Bryan
A dire situation has arisen in several rice-growing areas, with farmers who can afford to, being forced to take on the responsibility of pumping water from the canals to their fields, after water conservancy levels dropped to dangerously low levels, significantly affecting the crucial irrigation process.
General Secretary of the Guyana Rice Producers’ Association (GRPA), Dharamkumar Seeraj, confirmed that while there are demands right now for water during the current rice-planting season, the conservancy level is low.
As a consequence, he said yesterday, the water has to be supplemented by farmers pumping water into their fields. According to Seeraj, this is a cost that will have to be borne by the farmers.
It is understood that while some farmers have taken on this additional cost, others are waiting in the hope that there will be rainfall.
“There is apprehension among the farmers,” Seeraj said, describing the mood on the ground in Crane, on the West Coast of Demerara.
“Rice will be lost and cost will go up (because they are expending to pump water).”
One rice farmer situated in Anna Regina noted that the problem is also as widespread as Suddie, Essequibo to Charity.
He noted that at the moment farmers are forced to pump water into their fields to cultivate their crops or to sow. He stated that if they cannot get water throughout to the bearing stage, their crop will be lost.
It is understood that while a pumping station is currently under construction at Stewartville, the Dawa pumping station located at Tapacuma has strangely not been functioning.
This pump usually pumps water from the Pomeroon River, to be discharged into the Tapacuma Lake, so that rice farmers can get water to irrigate their lands. In addition, the level in the main conservancy would be maintained until harvest.
However, reports are emerging that the main conservancy canal located at Anna Regina has reached such depths that the bottom can be seen. As a consequence, much of the rice planted between Suddie and Charity is in jeopardy.
For 2015, the rice industry saw bumper crops despite marketing challenges. As at December 16, paddy production was 1,051,563 tonnes, equivalent to 683,516 tonnes of rice. This figure was 48,278 tonnes or 7.60% higher than the production of paddy and rice for the entire 2014. In 2014, some 977,289 tonnes of paddy equivalent to 635,238 tonnes of rice was produced.
For the period January-December 16, 2015 exports stood at 510,807 tonnes compared with 501,208 tonnes for 2014.
Despite the increase in the volume of exports for this period, the value was 15 % lower than that of 2014. For the period January up to December 16, 2015, the value of the exports was US$211,834,746 compared to US$249,504,955 for 2014.
In addition to the drop in prices and the losses, those in the industry have had to endure, the dreaded dry weather spell known as ‘El Niño’ which has also made a significant impact. To address the issue, the Ministry of Agriculture had set up an El Niño task force in October last.
Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder, had projected that the dry spell would last until the second quarter of 2016. The Minister had stated that there would be a “collaborative effort” to address the issue and that there would be briefings on the situation by the task force.
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