Close to 5,000 additional hectares of rice were cultivated last year and resulted in an 11.4 percent increase in production when compared to 2009 figures.
Speaking with Stabroek News on Monday afternoon, President of the Guyana Rice Producers’ Association (GRPA) Leekha Rambrich said that 63,802 hectares (one hectare equals 2.47 acres) and 71,713 hectares were cultivated last year in the first (spring) and second (autumn) crops, respectively. Farmers harvested a total of 4,088,197 bags of paddy during the first crop of 2010 and 4,491, 198 bags during the second crop. A total of 135,515 hectares of land were cultivated countrywide in 2010. This represents a 4,777 hectares (3.7 percent) increase in the land cultivated that year over 2009.
A slight increase in yield per hectare, Rambrich also noted, was recorded last year as well. For every acre harvested, he explained, an average of 4.3 tonnes of paddy was obtained. In 2009, one acre yielded approximately 4 tonnes.
Rambrich insisted that last year was very good for rice farmers and the industry in general.
The Ministry of Agriculture and extension agencies like the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) and the GRPA, he said, have made all efforts possible to see that there is an annual increase in the amount of rice cultivated annually.
In recent years, he noted, there has been a steady increase in the amount of land cultivated. Across the country, in most areas outside of Essequibo, there is a lot of land available for rice farming, Rambrich said.
He further noted that while the increase in yield is generally dependent on many factors, including the weather, it has been a continuous trend to see it climbing point by point annually. No crop, he pointed out, goes by without the industry encountering some difficulties.
Nevertheless, he said 2010 was a better year than many. “If everything goes smoothly in anything then there will be no excitement…there are always challenges in everything.
We learn from them,” Rambrich said.
Based on figures provided by Rambrich, approximately 582,714.5 tonnes of rice were produced overall in 2010. This represents an increase of 59,763 tonnes (11.4 percent) from the amount produced in 2009.
Is there market for the additional rice being produced? Rambrich explained that most of the additional rice produced has gone to the Venezuelan and other smaller markets. A multimillion-dollar deal was renewed with our Spanish-speaking neighbor last August.
Rambrich reiterated that things are getting better for farmers and he noted that recently there has been an increase in world market prices and the industry is hopeful that this means higher prices for local farmers as well.
However, it is still too soon to tell what prices will be like and these prices, Rambrich said, will be set by the millers.
The increase in world prices, according to him, came at the end of last year and already the price for a tonne of paddy has gone from $45,000 to $55,000.
Despite the recent success, many farmers have interest building on loans which they have been unable to repay. This situation was the result of the Mahaicony Rice Limited (MRL) failing to pay more than 400 farmers over US$2 million owed to them since the first crop of 2010. In addition to creating cash flow problems for farmers, MRL which was one of the leading local millers, stopped operations last year. For the second crop in 2010, the company did not buy paddy from farmers. Farmers have still not been paid.
Rambrich admitted that initially there were concerns within the industry about MRL’s absence from the market.
However, the paddy produced during the second crop last year was sold and this, Rambrich stressed, is evidence that farmers are not as dependent on the company as it appeared previously.
It was discovered, he said, that with MRL absent other millers were willing to buy the additional paddy now available. He further added that measures were in place to deal with any difficulties that may arise after harvesting for the first crop this year.
Already, Rambrich said, Region Six has cultivated 18, 160 hectares of paddy. Harvesting for the current crop, he said, will commence in mid-March.