Government has allocated some $342 million to carry out recovery efforts to the agriculture sector as El Nino dry weather conditions are forecasted to be in their dying stages.
Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud, during a media briefing at the ministry boardroom on Regent Road yesterday, stated that in the light of interventions undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and other ministerial departments to cushion the effects of El Nino, efforts undertaken to address the weather pattern had been successful.
He said there had been many instances over the past months when the authorities had been able to “stave-off” widespread disaster, and he posited that this was the result of the MoA being proactive in making concentrated preparations in several areas. He cited water management as being the most important and according to Persaud agencies such as the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA), regional administrations and corporate entities were all advised and took necessary action.
As regards the impact the weather phenomenon has had on the agriculture sector, the minister stated that some 8,000 acres of agricultural land across the country felt the effects of the weather phenomenon, even though this figure is still being studied.
Persaud said that during the recovery phase, which began yesterday, close to $342 million have been obtained by the ministry to address recovery efforts.
He elaborated that money will be sub-divided to various sub-sectors including the NDIA ($38 million), MMA ($55 million), livestock ($10 million), while close to $110 million has been allocated to the rice sector and assistance to the sector will include seedlings. He said $60 million will be expended on other crops while plant material, fertilizer and chemicals will be provided to farmers in terms of additional support.
While efforts and resources have already been dedicated to the Hinterland areas, the minister said an additional $15 million will be expended in those areas as chemicals to control the prevalence of Acoushi ants and planting material will be provided in terms of support. Planting material including peanuts and cassava sticks will be provided to farmers in Region Nine.
As regards the sugar industry, Persaud said its replanting programme was affected, especially at the East Coast estates, and according to him, officials at GuySuCo indicated that the entity would only be able to achieve 85% of production from the first crop. He said the effects of El Nino on estates included stagnated growth, inadequate irrigation, inadequate supply of water leading to factories as well as low levels of water in canals to transport canes via punt.
He said GuySuCo may not be able to achieve its first crop target and he noted that if the weather conditions improve, the corporation will make efforts to overcome losses which he stated was in the vicinity of approximately 8,000 tonnes.
The minister said GuySuCo has put in place a programme to address the situation as he noted that all agriculture sectors will be “in full recovery mode as we go through the rainy season”.
He expressed hope that efforts, similar to those made to cushion the effects of El Nino by relevant agencies will be utilized during the recovery phase.
Persaud recounted that Interventions made by the relevant agencies including the MoA , the Housing and Water Ministry and the Amerindian Affairs Ministry, focused on adequate water management, technical support to farmers, as well as livestock support in the area of supplementary feed.
He said the authorities were concerned about food security in the Hinterland region and he noted that interventions as well as technical advice in terms of storage and processing supplies were made, so that communities there could have endured the dry season. In the Hinterland region, he noted, there is only one rainy season and unlike coastal areas, the rainy season begins around this time lasting until September. In this regard, Persaud said, it becomes more difficult to manage water to farming areas.
Chief Hydromet Officer, Beulika Suelall, told the media that Guyana is currently experiencing a transition from El Nino conditions to normal weather conditions, when rainfall is expected to be prevalent. She said the potential exists for heavy rainfall in the months of June, July and August and she advised that the public to mitigate against the possible impact of heavy rainfall.