Guyana’s first Rice Gene Bank was on Monday commissioned at the Burma Rice Research Station, Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) while two new labs are being set up at the facility.
The National Rice Gene Bank has the capacity to store 1500 varieties of seed paddy for research. Currently, there are 400 different varieties of paddy in the bank and can be kept for more than ten years if they have the correct temperature.
The Government invested $25 million in the establishment of the bank. In addition, another $25 million is invested in a value-added lab at the same facility with a further $50 million budgeted for additional equipment. The lab will allow for research into value-added products from rice.
On Monday persons were shown bread that has been produced using 20 per cent rice flower along with other traditional wheat flour products which were made from rice flour.
Apart from that lab, a soil tissue analyst lab which is valued at $85 million was also opened at the research facility. Already, some $63 million has been pumped into the establishment of that lab.
Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Agriculture Ministry, Delma Nedd in delivering a message from Minister Zulfikar Mustapha to inaugurate the new state-of-the-art value-added rice laboratory and soil and tissue analysis laboratory noted that the construction of these new facilities is part of the Government’s commitment to producing high-quality rice and rice by-products.
This she said, will see the rice industry flourish and our rice farmers prosperous.
“Not only does value addition increase rice earnings at the national and household levels, it allows for nutritional fortification, import substitution, and employment generation. To enhance the potential of the rice industry, this Government is working to diversify rice production by using innovative measures to add value to locally produced commodities.
Some of the rice-based food products that Guyana can begin to produce using this new value-added rice industry are rice flour, rice starch, ready-to-eat convenience foods, fermented beverages and noodles.”
Speaking of the soil and tissue analyst laboratory, the PS said it would enable the GRDB to conduct accurate soil testing and improve crop fertility to increase crop yield.
“The Government is also investing in the construction of a bio-controlled lab on-site at the Rice Research Station primarily to study paddy bug with bio-controlled methods and other control methods in a controlled environment. The paddy bug is a real challenge to the rice industry that caused millions in losses and so with lab, studies will be conducted using bio-controlled methods in an effort to solve the problem.”
The Ministry, she pointed out, also plans to improve productivity in the rice industry on a more technical level using germplasm technology.
“For that very purpose, the Government is working on constructing a Germplasm/Rice Gene Bank facility, soon to be commissioned, for the Guyana Rice Development Board which will see to studying, managing and using genetic resources for plant breeding, preservation and other research purposes.”
She noted that the facility is the first of its kind in Guyana and aims at introducing a bio-fortified rice variety in 2023, a high-yielding variety in 2024, and an aromatic variety in 2025.
“We aim to have rice varieties that are more resilient, nutritional, and tastier,” she said.