Guyana to ensure rice meets int’l standards as EU clamps down on pesticides use

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Paddy bugs on rice crops in Region Six (East Berbice Corentyne) [File photo]

As Guyana’s largest rice export market – the European Union (EU) – is clamping down on the use of pesticides on its food imports, local authorities are working to ensure that the product meets updated international standards.

This was expressed by the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) during a recent conference where it was noted that the EU is tightening legislation on safety limits of pesticide residue in rice and other imported foods.

GRDB General Manager Badrie Persaud explained that Guyana has over the years, recorded increases in the amount of rice exported to Europe.

He said for the halfway mark of this year, 52% of the country’s exported rice went to the EU. Of the entirety of last year’s rice exports, 48% went to the EU.

But with the EU now clamping down on food safety, he noted that local authorities must be concerned.

In fact, he highlighted that many European countries have stopped importing rice and other products after discovering that it does not meet their safety standards.

It was explained that the EU has been focusing on a specific pesticide used by rice farmers in Guyana called imidacloprid which is used to control one of the most prevalent pests among local rice farms, commonly called the paddy bug.

It was noted that the overuse of imidacloprid and other similar chemicals can make produce unsafe for human consumption and can also be harmful to the biodiversity of the environment.

To prevent any such instance from happening and to keep country’s major export market intact, the GRDB in collaboration with the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) and other relevant agencies, are working to find other means of dealing with these prevalent and other types pests, and to ensure that safe, consumable rice that meets the EU’s standards.

Dr. Rajendra Persaud, a member of the GRDB’s Plant Pathology Department, who has already done studies on imidacloprid and the paddy bug, said they will be taking strategic measures to ensure to that the rice exported is safe.

“On the paddy bug and its management in Guyana, with our overall objective to study the paddy bug and to develop strategies that effectively reduces its economic impact on rice cultivation, we start off that by implementing our national monitoring and surveillance strategy which is currently being conducted throughout the rice growing regions with the help of our extension arm, working along with the farmers, we are evaluating new insecticides. We are also looking at the option of some bio pesticides,” he said.

As part of these strategic measure, the GRDB has already start the construction of a Bio Control Lab and will also be conducting further studies.

It was reported in 2019 that the GRDB received assistance from its international partner, the Latin-American Fund for Irrigated Rice (FLAR), to tackle the infestation of paddy bugs which has been affecting farmers in all the rice-producing regions.

Farmers, however, were not accepting the suggestions being put forward by the team of experts which comprised of entomologist and researcher, Dr Ed Pulver along with agricultural engineer Santiago Jaramillo Cardona.