In spite of the challenges facing rice farmers across the country, the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) has reported that farmers would have harvested a total of 89,290 hectares for the first crop of this year.
This figure represents a 23 percent increase over the first crop of 2016.
Further, paddy production for this crop was also announced at 518,667 metric tonnes – a 26 percent increase over the corresponding period last year.
According to the GRDB, the figures tells the story of an industry that is resilient and of a rice farming community that continues to produce in ever increasing quantities despite hardships relative to cost of production and price paid to them per bag of paddy.
General Manager (Acting) of the GRDB, Allison Peters, was upbeat about the performance of the local rice industry.
“The first crop figures have been better despite all that have occurred in the industry. Farmers are resilient…Additionally, from paddy supplied to millers across the rice-growing regions, 337,133 tonnes of rice was produced. This is a 26 percent increase over last year’s first crop figures,” Peters said.
However, while there have been increases in production, the rice board has been grappling with a decrease in exports of rice and paddy for the first four months of the year. This is as a result of exports to the Panama market for the first crop not being realized.
For the first crop this year, exports amounted to 239,442 metric tonnes, some 60,000 tonnes less than for the same period last year. Foreign exchange earnings from the export of rice and paddy amounted to US$92,026.
Peters noted that while the exports were significantly lower than for the corresponding period last year, the comparative value of the exports was not much different.
“We did notice that the prices in 2017 first quarter were higher than those we got in 2016; specifically for the packaged rice; a lot of packaged rice was exported for the first quarter. A large portion of this was exported to Venezuela” she said.
“Only last month we had over 4000 tonnes of white rice exported to Venezuela by private exporters,” she added.
The GRDB officials are upbeat that once the international prices continue to hold or increase, Guyana’s earnings from the exports of rice and paddy for the second crop can very well make up for the shortfall in exports in the first crop.
Meanwhile, the GRDB says exports to Panama began earlier this month and are expected to continue for the rest of the year.
Commenting on the production effort of Guyana’s rice farmers for this first crop, Peters was loud in her praise of the improvements reported in terms yield and the quality of paddy supplied to millers.
“Our extension officers have been in the field working with our farmers to ensure that as far as possible they continue to incorporate the six agronomic practices that have been proven to increase all aspects of production and productivity” she said.
Peters added that because of these improved farming practices some farmers have been reporting yields of up to 60 bags per acre.
She said also, that overall, Guyana’s national yield per acre has moved from 35 bags to 37.5 this last crop, adding that this upward trend will only continue as more farmers adopt the six-point plan and monitor their crops closely from start to finish.
Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder, in an invited comment spoke of some of the successes the Ministry continues to record due to the incorporation of the six-point system in rice cultivation, noting that it has resulted in a movement in the national average yield per acre from 35 to 37 bags per acre.
“The survival of our rice farmers and the industry as a whole hinges on farmers realizing higher yields per acre as only in this way will they be able to cushion the increasing cost of production and remain viable.”
The issue of Paddy Bug
The Minister, however, cautioned that while there have been reports of farmers suffering as a result of paddy bug infestation, farmers and millers have indicated a significant reduction when compared to other crops.
The Minister has echoed a call for all players to work together in the best interest of the industry and the country as a whole.
He lauded the efforts of Guyana’s rice farmers across Guyana for their hard work for this first crop, urging them to put their shoulders to the wheel in making the second crop this year a record breaking one.
The focus for the Rice Board is now on preparations for the second crop. The GRDB has projected a second crop target of 85,021 hectares to be sown. To aid farmers in their preparations for this crop, the GRDB have commenced issuing fertilizer to farmers on credit – the provision of quality seed paddy is also being assured.
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