Guyana secures new rice markets in eastern Europe

White rice being loaded onto the vessel’s hatch, for shipment to Cuba

Government has secured two new rice markets for Guyana in eastern Europe, a feat that will be complemented by initiatives contained in the 2021 budget to boost the rice industry and assist farmers.

During his budget presentations, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha revealed that in 2020, two new markets for Guyana’s rice exports were secured in Hungary and Latvia, two Eastern European countries.

“Additionally, Guyana will soon be exporting an additional 24,000 tons of rice to Brazil, taking the total to 34,000 tons,” the Minister further explained in his contribution to the debates on the $383.1 billion budget.

Minister Mustapha also noted that there is a countrywide lack of capacity to dry paddy during the peak season, something that had manifested last year when rice farmers were at loggerheads with Police in Region Six over the use of the roadways to dry paddy.

The Minister pointed out that there are a limited number of facilities in the various regions to dry paddy, which together with the cost to transport the paddy due to the distance is a disincentive for farmers.

“Budget 2021 will see the construction of 6 drying floors, in Regions Two, Three, Four and Six at the cost of $80 million. With this, an additional 50,000 bags of paddy will be dried per crop and spoilage and cost to transport paddy will be reduced,” the Minister explained.
“We will rehabilitate the cleaning and drying facility at Lesbeholden substation, BBP at the cost of $20 million. An estimated total of 6300 bags of seed is expected to be dried and cleaned per crop and prevented from spoilage.”

He also spoke of the work done by the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), which he said has been providing necessary support to rice farmers, by producing and making accessible 25,902 bags of seeds to farmers. Additionally, Mustapha revealed that GRDB had provided five mechanical sprayers to bring relief to rice farmers facing the paddy bug.

“In 2021 we will procure five long-reach sprayers to aid paddy bug control for $7 million, which will reduce the damage caused by the paddy bug and reduce the high cost of spraying the paddy bug by 60 per cent. In Region Two alone, for the second crop 2020, the damage at the mills was as high as 75 per cent, this intervention will reduce the reoccurrence of the high losses,” the Minister said.

For 2020, Guyana’s agriculture sector saw mixed results. During his recent reading of Budget 2021, Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh had reported that while sugar production fell, rice production increased.

According to the Finance Minister, the rice-growing sector grew by 4.8 per cent, with paddy production reaching 1,057,580 tonnes in 2020. On the other hand, the sugar-growing one contracted by 3.7 per cent, with production falling to a low 88,868 tonnes.