Being at one time the point man for rice and paddy on the Essequibo Coast and a former rice extension officer, it is welcome news to hear from the Minister of Agriculture new markets to push rice growth (KN, December 11). Five new markets will definitely boost the rice industry and encourage the farmers to cultivate every inch of their land. When Guyana lost the Venezuelan market everyone thought that all was gone, and the farmers became frustrated because they couldn’t pay their debts and go back to the land. Anyhow they kept hanging on with the poor prices paid for their produce as they knew that the industry would rebound one day.
The industry was always in this state: one time up another time down. As a little boy my parents went through these horrible times and the job was harder than it is today, but they never gave up because it was their only source of livelihood. When I took over the reins it was better, and the industry brought new high-yielding varities, like Champion, Blue Belle, Diwani, etc. Farmers were reaping 40 bags per acre, and although the price was low the yield compensated for our hard work in the field. There were no combines or tractors; we were planting the crops with our hands, tilling the soil with bulls and reaping crops with grass knives. Times have changed with tractors and combines, and farmers have more advantages through getting higher yields with new varieties coming from the Burma Research Station.
According to the Minister, by the end of the year rice production is projected to be 602,087 metric tonnes, representing an increase of 12.7 per cent; this is a great achievement for the industry. Although the price is $3,500 per bag, the farmers were able to see a profit and go back to their lands. With the heavy rainfall and no shortage of irrigation water in the main canal, Region Two has already cultivated all 35,500 acres of its lands without difficulty. The Burma Research Station has to be more pro-active in releasing these new lines early for the crop.
Most of the seeds coming out of Burma are contaminated with red rice, monkey tail and grass seed when sold to farmers. This can infest their lands causing poor yields and grades; better certification of the seeds is needed before it is sold to farmers. The high grade and quality of our rice can earn us more money on the international market. Guyana can do it with prudent management and win back all its markets in the Caribbean.