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|Rice production set to exceed 400,000 tonnes again|
|Friday, 26 October 2012 20:28|
THE local rice industry is set to exceed a production of 400,000 tonnes of rice this year which will be the second time in Guyana’s history that this amount is surpassed.
This was disclosed by Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy in a recent interview with the Guyana Chronicle. He pointed out that for the first crop of this year more than 210,000 tonnes of rice were produced, exceeding the target of 200,000 tonnes, and the second crop, which is now being reaped, is also expected to surpass 200,000 tonnes.
“When we did it last year a lot of people said that it was a fluke, that it will never happen again but already there is indication that not only will we exceed it this year, but for those people who have already reaped, they have already prepared their land and there is indication that next crop would probably be one of the largest in terms of land under cultivation,” he noted.
Therefore, the minister said it is likely that in 2013, unless Guyana experiences really bad weather, the industry will again exceed 400,000 tonnes and for this reason, the target for next year is being set at 412,000 tonnes.
Ramsammy highlighted that production is presently at 273,000 tonnes for this year. However, he maintained that it is still early in this crop so most of the rice is now being reaped.
In addition, he noted that only a small amount of the rice produced is used locally, that is, approximately 30,000 tonnes, while some 320,000 tonnes will be exported this year.
According to the minister, approximately 220,000 tonnes of rice have already been exported, amounting to earnings of approximately US $130M.
He pointed out that rice continues to be exported to Venezuela, which is Guyana’s largest rice importer, Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean and Europe.
Dr Ramsammy further revealed that they are currently exploring possibilities of exporting to other countries, such as Panama, in order to ensure that if production increases there is also adequate market.
“If you produce more and it’s the same market then the price will drop so we would lose. So we have to make sure that we have additional markets and we can find additional markets but it’s also if we’re going to get the price. There is no point if we grow more and get the market but we’re making the same amount of money,” he explained.
He said that there are various factors which are responsible for the higher rates of production, one such factor being that farmers are now making use of lands which were previously abandoned.
He explained that even when those lands were used in the 1980s, those farmers only used them for one crop but now they are being used for both crops.
“Whereas in the 80s the farmers were getting like 15-16 bags per acre, now they’re getting 40, 50, 60 bags. So the same amount of land is producing minimum two times, but up to three and four times what they used to get. This is because of better farming techniques and better varieties,” he explained.
Ramsammy highlighted that a significant amount of research and experimentation is currently being undertaken at the Burma Rice Research Station to create better varieties.
For instance, he said that one variety, GRDB 9 is flood resistant and can stay in water for approximately two-three weeks, while there are also others which are resistant to pests and weed.
The minister noted that 50 percent of the rice now being produced comes from four fairly new varieties, GRDB 9, 10, 11 and 12, which are higher yielding and survive better under Guyanese conditions.
Additionally, he disclosed that they are presently experimenting on salt resistant rice, especially for farmers who are growing rice along the sea defence and may get an encroachment of salt water.
He also advised that some 1,000 packages of aromatic rice are expected to be available on the local market by December.
The aromatic rice is a unique species of rice, like the popular Basmati Rice of India, and according to Ramsammy, is being produced in Guyana for the first time in the Caribbean.
He said that it will first be released on the local market, but will later be produced in a higher quantity and packaged for export purposes. Furthermore, he revealed that the aromatic rice should carry a higher price and that is one of the things that the Ministry is doing for rice farmers, since they will benefit from the higher prices.
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