Berbice farmers predict major losses again from paddy bug infestation

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By: Andrew Carmichael

Reeling from the devastating effects of the paddy bug infestation on their last crop, farmers were hoping for a fresh start with the new harvest, however, the situation is looking dire as the pests continue to wreck much havoc.

Despite assurances from the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) that the paddy bug infestation is being adequately addressed on the ground, there is a different reality for these farmers.

Some rice farmers who reached out to this publication are calling for aerial spraying to be allowed, claiming that if not, losses will be worse than last crop.

The GRBD recently announced that it’s expanding its paddy bug campaigns with intent to completely eradicate the issue.

Last crop, in the 52-72 area and Crabwood Creek, 17 farmers were forced to dump their paddy, after mills refused them because of the damage as a result of the paddy bug infestation.

According to the GRDB, it has now adopted the strategy of using trained and experienced personnel to conduct spraying.

The new approach will see the GRDB not only spraying the fields, but also the perimeter to avoid the bugs getting to the actual rice crop, GRDB’s Allison Peters had stated.

However, Extension Officer Ramglan Singh explained that the GRDB has only contracted two motor blowers to the entire Region Six. The project commenced in the Number 52-74 rice cultivation area only.

“It has approximately 300 miles access dams, irrigation dams and drainage dams and two motor blowers will take them several months to complete just 52-74,” the Extension Officer revealed.

However, that does not include the Black Bush Polder, Crabwood Creek, Lower Corentyne, both East and West Canje and East Bank Berbice, where rice is also being cultivated.

In two weeks of work, the GRDB motor blowers have treated about ten miles of the more than 300 miles of dams in the 52-74 area.

Both the 52-74 and Crabwood Creek Water Users Associations are willing to step in, Singh said.

“Unfortunately, one of the extension officers informed me that a chemical supplied by the GRDB is finished and with only two motor blowers being supplied to the entire region… several months to complete that kind of exercise. We are waiting on the GRDB to coordinate this activity from the level of the Water Users Association and the Farmers’ Organisation so that it can be expedited … this most important activity to eradicate the paddy bugs”.

However, farmers are calling on Government to allow aerial spraying, noting that the paddy bugs are in the savannah and field, and dam spraying will not eradicate the insects.

“We are urging the Head of the Extension Services of the GRDB to take a more serious step and to collaborate with the local authorities in order to move the exercise faster because in one week from now some of the rice will start flowering. In fact, some has already begun to flower but there are reports of massive paddy bug infestation in fields,” Singh said.

Meanwhile, one farmer, Dhaniram Persaud, who cultivates 308 acres of rice at Crabwood Creek, told INews that 210 acres of rice are about to bare. Currently he is applying insecticides for the bugs.

According to Persaud, it cost him about $75,000 in labour and a further $75,000 in chemicals for each application, which cost him about $200,000 in total. He has to apply the chemicals once every 3 days and estimates that an additional $2M will be spent in trying to eradicate the pest. According to Persaud, even with that, he might still not get the quality of rice expected because of the attack by bugs.

The GRDB has been engaging in several seminars to better educate both farmers and rice mill employees in the areas of rice grading, checking for dockage, and moisture. She noted that they have already conducted three workshops in Region 5 and 6, and would soon move to Region 3 to continue in that direction.