Plan to grow onions, potatoes in Region 8 still to take off

A plan to re-start growing crops such as onions in mountainous Region Eight is yet to take off.

“We have to ensure we have the logistics, we’re having difficulties with the planting material, we don’t have onions here to plant so we’re trying to source planting material as well as the training,” Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud told Stabroek News on Wednesday. He said that a lot of training has to be done and emphasized that the project is more at the trial stage.

Stabroek News had reported earlier this year that improved road links could see the resuscitation of south-western Region Eight as a large producer of “environmentally adaptable crops” such as onions and Irish potatoes. Over three decades ago, a massive agriculture enterprise in the mountainous region saw the production of thousands of pounds of produce but this collapsed due to high transportation costs. The project, which ran from 1972 to 1976, saw the production of cabbage, potatoes, onions and other crops on a large scale. At that time there were virtually no road links in the remote region and the high cost of air transport eventually saw the initiative collapse.

The Government Information Agency had reported that the Ministry of Agriculture is looking to re-introduce large-scale production of “environmentally adaptable crops” such as onions, carrots, turmeric and Irish potatoes in the Region. Kato, Kurukubaru, Tuseneng, Paramakatoi and its satellite village, Bamboo Creek, are the communities which have been identified to participate in the initiative which falls under the Agriculture Diversification Project.

In February, GINA reported that analyses are being carried out by researchers from the National Agricultural and Extension Institute (NAREI), to check the feasibility of the soil type and field texture. Demonstration plots were established at Kato in the vicinity of the Chiung River, while in remaining areas plots were established at creeks, GINA reported. Farmers were also given a practical demonstration of planting the crops with respect to row and seed spacing; techniques to reduce fine seed; and planting density using sand and a selection of potato quarters. In addition, black pepper seedlings were planted in Kato, Kurukubaru and Paramakatoi.

Persaud said at the time that that phase of the programme was successfully completed and a follow-up team from NAREI was expected to return to facilitate the transfer of plants to larger production areas.

Meanwhile, corn is one of the crops in demand worldwide and when questioned on what is being done with this crop here, Persaud said that large-scale investment is needed if there is to be any major impact on the market. “We’ve done some work with it but again we need large scale. The small farming alone would just take care of human consumption,” Persaud said. “A five acre, a 20 acre is not gonna make any dent,” he said while pointing out that local feed producers have said that they will take all the corn they can get but they need a reliable supplier and quantity as well. Logistics is also something that has to be worked out.

The minister said that some of the potential investors in the intermediate savannahs have a corn component to their projects and he hopes that they would be able to supply a significant amount. He noted that a lot depends on power as well as in terms of processing the corn.

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