Guyana pleased with first rice crop for 2017

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The massive rice industry in Guyana, which provides employment for at least 100,000 people, is just one area of the Caribbean’s agriculture sector under threat from climate change. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jun 21 2017 – Guyana produced more than half a million tonnes of paddy in the first crop for this year with exports of the commodity totalling more than US$92 million, according to figures released by the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) on Wednesday.

The GRDB said that 518,667 metric tonnes of paddy was produced during the first crop, a 26 percent increase over the same period last year

“So, you see the first crop figures have been better despite all that have occurred in the industry. Farmers are resilient. Additionally, from paddy supplied to millers across the rice-growing regions, a total of 337, 133 metric tonnes of rice was produced. This is a 26 percent increase over last year’s first crop figures,” GRDB acting general manager, Allison Peters.

However, while there have been increases in production, the rice board has been grappling with a decrease in exports of rice and paddy for the first four months of the year, due to the fact that exports to the Panama market for the first crop not materialising.

For the first crop 2017, exports amounted to 239,442 metric tonnes, some 60,000 tonnes less that for the same period last year. Foreign exchange earnings from the export of rice and paddy amounted to US$92.02 million.

Peters noted that while the exports were significantly less than for the corresponding period last year the comparative value of the exports were not much different.

“We did notice that the prices in 2017 first quarter were higher than those we got in 2017; specifically for the packaged rice; a lot of packaged rice were exported for the first quarter, a large portion of this was exported to Venezuela,” Peters said, adding “only last month we had over 4000 tonnes of white rice exported to Venezuela by private exporters”.

The GRDB said that once the international prices continue to hold or increase, Guyana’s earnings from the exports of rice and paddy for the second crop can very well make up for the shortfall realised in the first crop.

It said that exports to Panama began earlier this month and is expected to continue for the rest of the year.

Agriculture Minister Noel Holder said the incorporation of the six-point system in rice cultivation had contributed to the success within the sector, adding that it has resulted in a movement in the national average yield per acre from 35 to 37 bags per acre.

“The survival of our rice farmers and the industry as a whole hinges on farmers realizing higher yields per acre as only in this way will they be able to cushion the increasing cost of production and remain viable,” he added.

But Holder cautioned that while there have been reports of farmers suffering as a result of paddy bug infestation, farmers and millers have indicated a significant reduction when compared to other crops.

The GRDB said it is projecting a second crop target of 85,021 hectares and to assist farmers in their preparations the board has started issuing fertilizer to them on credit.

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