Growers for aromatic rice being sought by GRDB

The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) has advertised for farmers and millers to produce and market Guyana’s first aromatic rice commercially.

General Manager of the GRDB Jagnarine Singh told Stabroek News on Sunday that now that the trials were finished for the aromatic rice, which will be sold under the brand Maria’s Delight Aromatic, the board is publicly seeking interested parties capable of large scale commercial production.

He said that the process was aimed at being as public and as transparent as possible to allow all interested farmers to apply. Singh said that naturally from the trials some farmers have shown a greater ability but that the GRDB would still be seeking to widen public interest.

The GRDB invited interested growers in an advertisement in the last Sunday Chronicle. Singh told Stabroek News that the board would also be sending out letters of interest to farmers to ensure that they are aware that for the second rice crop the GRDB was looking to produce the aromatic variety commercially.

During the trials, 23 farmers were given the opportunity to grow the aromatic variety known as GRDB-14. Farmers saw a yield of over 30 bags per acre while some farmers even reported close to 50 bags per acre.

Guyana’s foray into the speciality rice market will broaden the variety of products it offers. At the launch of the aromatic rice earlier this month, Deputy General Manager Ricky Ramraj noted that the local rice sector was in need of value-added products.

Utilizing economist Dr Clive Thomas’ column in the Sunday Stabroek, Ramraj had pointed out that Guyana was responsible for less than 0.12% of the world market demand and cultivation. He said that moving forward the industry was in need of an economic advantage that was based on increasing yields and speciality rice varieties.

He said that there were still significant issues such as the pre and post shipment financing which resulted in farmers not being paid for months at a time due to milling and exporting schedules.

Up to Friday, angry Black Bush Polder rice farmers were waiting on some $140 million in overdue payments from one rice miller. The miller was set to receive a $90 million payment from exports on Friday allowing for over half of the overdue payments to be made by the beginning of this week.

Due to the large amount of rice here, in 2014 Guyana’s rice production exceeded 635,000 tonnes, farmers were forced to utilize the Black Bush mill to unload large amounts of paddy due to the lack of storage facilities. Because of this dynamic, farmers had to wait months for payments and turned to the streets to protest on February 13, 2015.

Police were called to the mill and assisted in quelling the commotion caused by the farmers. The scene which involved the burning of tyres came to the attention of the GRDB which then held a meeting with farmers.

In addition to commercializing the aromatic variety of rice, Dr Mahendra Persaud, Chief Scientist at the GRDB said that a rice husk gasifier would be operational this year and this would transform husk into energy.

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