May 16, 2016 News
– Agri. Minister
In spite of the “doom and gloom” picture that is being painted by the political opposition, Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder remains optimistic about the future of the rice sector.
The Minister recently reported to the National Assembly that the sector is actually on track to meet production targets. He stated that 80 percent of the spring crop has already been harvested.
Holder recalled that during the Budget 2016, it was stated that production is expected to decline by 8.4 percent from 2015 levels to 630,028 metric tonnes. He said that as of May 9 last, more than half of the spring crop has been harvested which is equivalent to 215,339 metric tonnes.
The Minister of Agriculture assured that the industry is on track. He said that for this first crop, most of the rice has been harvested with losses of only four percent even in the face of the El Nino phenomenon.
Holder said that the Ministry of Agriculture and the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) have and will continue to implement several measures to enhance the state of the rice industry in Guyana.
To this effect, Holder intimated that the Research Station at Burma will continue its focus on Plant Breeding, Agronomy, Soil Fertility and Crop Nutrition, Entomology, Seed Production, Agricultural Engineering.
He said that there will be focus on a Laser Leveling Programme to complete 100 acres of laser assisted land leveling annually; a Parameter Measurement Programme; a Rice Transplanter Programme to pioneer mechanized rice transplanting in Guyana, with the aim of improving seed quality and productivity and finally, the modernization of the Seed Cleaning and Treatment Plant.
The Agriculture Minister said that the GRDB is also working on the resuscitation of the Rice Project in Moco Moco, Rupununi, in Region Nine. For the next four years, he said that the GRDB plans to facilitate the increased production of rice in the Rupununi from approximately 25 to 30 acres of cultivation then gradually to 50 acres and then to 100 acres.
On the way forward, Holder said that the measures suggested to take the rice industry forward by the Opposition, particularly Parliamentarian Irfaan Ali are welcomed.
The PPP Executive Member had called on Holder to resume talks and negotiations with the Government of Venezuela; remove all forms of taxes and duties on fuel for the industry and remove all taxes and duties on imports for the industry including machinery, equipment and spares.
Ali proposed that the Government work with the financial institutions to refinance loans to farmers and suspend payments of land leases. The Parliamentarian also called on the Government to lay a supplementary provision in the National Assembly to provide financial support to the farmers in order to aid in the purchase of seed paddy and fertilizer.
He also asked for Government to immediately implement a minimum export price for rice and paddy, execute an aggressive marketing strategy to secure lucrative markets and withdraw its statement that “rice is not the Government’s business.”
The Agriculture Minister made it clear that while some of Ali’s proposals are just not possible, he is willing to look at others such as the tax rebates.
“We are here to learn from each other with the interest of the citizens and to take the country forward. Our Government will not be deterred and will continue to support the transformation of the sector. We will continue to address the needs of the citizens and involve them in decision making.”
The Agriculture Minister said that the rice farmers, have been influenced by naysayers, but he is nevertheless optimistic that they are smart, hardworking and resilient people.
“We have seen them sowing and harvesting the rice lands despite all the negative comments. We in the government will continue to do all in our power to take the industry forward despite the constraints.”
Holder said that over the following months, the Ministry of Agriculture and the GRDB will hold a series of meetings, to update farmers and be actively involved in solving their problems as the rainy season kicks in.
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