After numerous unexpected delays the first shipment of fertiliser from Venezuela has finally arrived and is currently docked at the Friendship Wharf, East Bank Demerara.
Agriculture Ministry Dr Leslie Ramsammy revealed in a release that the shipment of 5,000 tonnes of fertiliser arrived yesterday morning.
Dr Ramsammy stated that the arrival of the first shipment has paved the way for the additional 5,000 tonne shipment that will be brought to Guyana from Venezuela in March 2014.
He said, “government has invested much in agriculture, but we do have some constraints, one of which is how to deal with the issue of the high price of sourcing fertilisers and pesticides not only in the direct use of these things to improve production and yields, but also from the perspective of ensuring sustainable environmental practices.”
Ramsammy stated that the high cost of fertiliser has added to the overall cost of food production which in turn affects food affordability. He said the government has had to be vigilant in assessing how much food production costs have risen. He also stated that partnerships such as the PetroCaribe Agreement have greatly assisted in keeping costs low; the fertiliser pact was added on to this year’s agreement.
The 5,000 tonnes of fertiliser will be distributed for $5,000 per 50kg bag by the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), and the Rice Producers’ Association (RPA). Ramsammy had stated previously to Stabroek News that all three entities will be working on a programme to distribute the fertiliser prior to the end of the second crop harvest. He had noted that the goal was to get the fertiliser in Guyana so that the ministry could start working out the best ways to get the product to farmers. Currently farmers purchase the same quantity of fertiliser for between $7,000 and $10,000 per 50kg bag.
Ramsammy said the small-scale farmers would benefit the most and that was always the intention. He had stated to Stabroek News previously that encouraging small scale farmers to grow different varieties of rice and to expand on the working down by the GRDB, ensuring those same farmers had access to cheaper fertiliser and pesticides was an incentive.
The ministry through the assistance of the GRDB and the RPA had previously given fertiliser to various farmers whose crops were damaged by paddy bug as compensation, however many farmers had said that the quality of the fertiliser was diminished. When Stabroek News spoke to the minister last week he had noted that the Venezuelan fertiliser was not going to be given away and that Guyana had to expect quality assurance of the product being shipped.
Local rice farmers require 20,000 tonnes of fertiliser each year. Under the terms of the PetroCaribe agreement signed this year, Venezuela is expected to provide half of the annual requirement.