Brazil’s President talks up advancement in wheat production

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…market expansion, removal of trade barriers discussed with President Ali

With Guyana moving aggressively with trials for wheat cultivation here, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has highlighted the advancement his country has made with regards to this grain.

He made this disclosure during a one-day State-visit to Guyana on Friday.

Following a high-level caucus between his delegation and Guyanese officials led by President Dr Irfaan Ali at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), the Brazilian Head of State disclosed, via a translator, that “Brazil, in a few years, will become more than self-sufficient and will be in a position to export wheat to the world.”

This, President Bolsonaro pointed out, was indicated to his Guyanese counterpart during their engagement. He explained that cropping fields for wheat are currently in the Brazilian State of Roraima, which borders Guyana at Lethem, Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Essequibo).

He further noted that technology developed by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Organization has helped to make wheat cultivation a “totally doable reality” in the neighbouring state of northern Brazil.

Following the invasion of Russian troops in Ukraine back in February has led to a global shortage of wheat. Both States account for about 30 percent of the world’s traded wheat.

This prompted the Guyana Government to explore the cultivation of wheat here in response to the shortage and soaring prices on the world market. In fact, Guyana has plans to test as much as 20 wheat varieties. In fact, the first trial was conducted last month and has given local authorities encouraging signs.

A small-scale trial was executed by local scientist Dr Mahendra Persaud at the Burma Rice Research Station in Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice).

President Dr Irfaan Ali introducing Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro to Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha on Friday

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha had told reporters in April that, “This is a new crop for our country and we are looking at certain areas, so what the scientist told me, Dr Mahendra just told me he started some at the rice research station and the prospect look very good in the very small amount… So what he will do, he will come out in open field to start that trial there.”

Previously, Minister Mustapha had explained that the rice research station will be used as the testing location since it has adequate land space. The climatic condition has to also be taken into account.

“We are in contact with our counterpart in Mexico. We are looking at a different variety of wheat. I am hoping by the end of this month or by next month latest, we can have the first trial with about 15 to 20 varieties to see the best one that can be grown in Guyana,” he had stated.

The Agriculture Ministry is also examining the possibility of establishing nurseries at strategic locations across the country to test for better growing results. The plan is to have the technical officers assess which of the varieties are better grown here.

According to Minister Mustapha, the approach to introduce the new food commodity to Guyana’s soil, shows government’s determination to ensure the nation becomes self-sufficient.

“We are very determined that as long as it is successful; we will be going to produce our own wheat because we can’t depend too much on imports. As a country, we have to ensure we produce our own food and be self-sufficient…we can have all the money in the world and we have seen during the pandemic how many countries are suffering to get food. We in Guyana are very fortunate that we produce most of the food,” he had reasoned.

It was only recently that President Dr Irfaan Ali announced government’s plan to explore the possibility of sourcing a variety of wheat for local production. The Head of State said the government is unwavering in its quest to build a Guyana that is resilient, and meets not only its national responsibility, but plays an important role in its global responsibility.

The surge in wheat and other commodity prices is a result of the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.

Markets and trade barriers

Meanwhile, during Friday’s discussions with President Bolsonaro, President Ali said talks centered on, among other things, advancing cooperation in the broader agriculture area.

“The team is expected to work out an aggressive plan on the expansion of markets; the removal of barriers; how is it we can deploy new technology; the process flow of institutional arrangements; creating a hub for processing and transshipment of agri-produce and products to the rest of CARICOM (Caribbean Community), with Guyana becoming a hub; and how is it we package this to bring investors in to support what we want to achieve here in agriculture.”

“As you know, agriculture is a major area that Guyana is pursuing. All of this is linked intricately to our trade arrangement and agreements. So, we have been able to frankly discuss these issues and work out the mechanism through which all of these areas will advance,” the Guyanese Leader stated.

Moreover, the Guyanese leader said the discussions on food security was not only from a Guyana-Brazil perspective but a Caricom perspective.

“President Ali invited Brazil to partner in the advance of the CARICOM Agri-Food Systems Agenda with the aim of contributing to enhanced food and nutrition security in the region,” a joint statement on Friday’s high-level visit detailed.

It was further outlined that the two Presidents committed to broadening the scope and expanding the provisions of the Partial Scope Agreement between Guyana and Brazil. They agreed on the importance of expanding and diversifying agricultural trade between the two countries and also agreed to work towards the full operationalisation of the Agreement on Cooperation and Facilitation of Investment.

Presidents Ali and Bolsonaro, according to the missive, agreed to pursue greater collaboration in the area of agriculture and food security, through the sharing of information and best practices, enhanced collaboration between their respective research institutions, and the promotion of investment.