GuySuCo’s pilot rice crop at Wales falls far short of production target

GuySuCo produced some 5,600 bags of rice from the 200 acres that were planted at the former Wales sugar estate, about 2,000 bags short of its target.

GuySuCo’s Senior Communications Officer Audreyanna Thomas told Stabroek News on Sunday that the sugar company was only able to reap approximately 28 bags per acre, instead of the expected 38 bags per acre.

Despite the shortfall, Thomas said that the company is still going to continue planting rice and will add another 285 acres, bringing the total amount of acreage to be planted to 485 acres. This process should begin before the end of the month.

In an advertisement in the November 19th edition of the Guyana Chronicle, the sugar company placed a notice inviting suitably qualified contractors to submit proposals for the sowing of seed paddy at the Wales Estate, with the closing date for responses being November 23.

Thomas explained that despite the noticeable shortfall, the company is going to continue since the project is still in its pilot stage and GuySuCo is still “learning” about planting rice. “The next crop is expected to start by the end of the month… We cultivate sugar cane and produce sugar, we are not rice experts and that is part of our learning. We are learning how to plant rice and that is why we are using experts,” Thomas explained, while stating that the reason the company has been contracting persons to sow the rice is because GuySuCo currently lacks the expertise in the rice industry.

She also noted that they have been getting support from the relevant stakeholders, such as the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), to which the company also resells its production.

When questioned about the potential risks, considering the shortfall, Thomas explained that the company is of the opinion that it performed fairly well, considering that the crop was a pilot for the rice production initiative.

“This is one of our problems in the west. The Chinese give themselves 10 years where a business can grow. We give ourselves one crop and if we don’t get it right we call it a failure—or if we don’t get it right in three months, we call it a failure—and this is one of the reasons we abandon projects. If you are going to learn to do anything right then, it has to take time and we must give ourselves time to make mistakes and to learn from the mistakes,” Thomas noted.

As a result, she said that they are employing persons who have years of experience in the rice industry so that the company can learn.

In terms of the methods and technology that are being employed, Thomas highlighted that they are still using the conventional approaches. “We have our own aircraft and we do the spraying to our own fields but rice we are learning and still learning and therefore as it relates to technology and methods, we are still working out… our business strategy and business model as it relates to rice,” Thomas added, while stating that the second crop should be ready by March, 2018, when the company expects way better results than the pilot crop. “The first crop just came in and so we are doing a diagnostic. We all had an experience with converting the lands for rice and it’s a learning curve and I think we’ve done quite well,” Thomas said.

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