Several placard-bearing farmers yesterday turned out to demand aerial spraying to remedy the paddy bug infestation that has been decimating their crops for months.
Lekka Rambridge, President of the Rice Producers Association told reporters that the decision to protest followed repeated calls for assistance.
He called on the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) to have aerial spraying done immediately.
“We are gathered here to demonstrate that the paddy bug influx is beyond control and we want the GRDB to understand that with that much paddy bug in the field, it is out of the farmers reach and so we are demanding aerial spraying to be done”.
Over 62,000 acres of rice is under threat if this is not done, Rambridge said.
According to the RPA President, “The board took a decision months ago and instructed the General Manager to do aerial spraying but only a week ago when I called the General Manager to tell him Region Six is ready for aerial spraying then he started to look for aircraft.
“This is gross incompetence by him, gross incompetence.”
Rambridge said that the special committee attached to the GRDB, of which he is a member, made recommendations to have two Entomologists brought in to find solutions.
However, two agronomists were brought in who suggested to farmers that they were spraying their crops more than they are supposed to.
“Since my father planting rice and myself, 50 years of spraying of the crop two times has always been done and then we spray for paddy bug.
“Now these two agronomists coming and tell us we doing it wrong. We have an entomologist in this country that sits there and does nothing,” Rambridge claimed.
Ramlagan Singh, Extension Officer of the RPA, told reporters that the situation is so critical that from the over 25 percent of farmers lost their previous crop and could “barely make it to go back”.
“Rice is now flowering at 64 Village, 57 Village and 61 Village and paddy bug infestation is very high and so we are asking GRDB to do aerial spraying.
“Because as soon as farmers spray their field, three days after, it is re-infested”, Singh added.
The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) recently brought in a team from the Latin-American Fund for Irrigated Rice (FLAR), to tackle the paddy bug infestation. They spent a week in Berbice, gathering data, researching and subsequently producing findings about the problem.
The team had found that there was an over-dependence on insecticides that caused a biological imbalance.
Suggestions were made to have better pest management practices other than insecticides.
A solution that would allow for less spraying of crops with insecticides and more focus on seed treatments and biological control was suggested.
GRDB had reportedly promised to change their agronomy practices.
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