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Guyana’s rice sector flourishes, to increase by 12 per cent

country extends support to CARICOM neighbours

RESEARCH and development of new rice strains are improving productivity, according to President Dr. Irfaan Ali, who stated that rice remains the primary staple in Guyana and other CARICOM countries.

While speaking at the Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) launch last Friday, the Head of State disclosed that the country’s rice production is expected to rise by 12 per cent from about 560,000 metric tonnes (MT) in 2021 to more than 625,000 MT in 2023.

He credited this to the introduction of GRDB 16, a new high-yielding variety of rice that was recently harvested and the ongoing research of a biofortified zinc rice variety.

On Saturday, the bio-fortified rice variety with nutritionally enhanced zinc, which is anticipated to provide farmers and Guyana with enormous relief, was harvested in Region Six.

Trials for this variety had begun back in 2020.

This significant project forms part of an effective partnership between the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Fondo Latinoamericano para Arroz de Riego (FLAR), CARICOM, among others.

Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, said that that variety of rice will provide various opportunities to the farmers, given that the variety’s nutritional value exceeds that of conventional rice.

“We are launching a variety of rice that will shortly become an official variety for farmers in our country, so that they can cultivate it. This variety of rice will attract preferential prices around the Region and different parts of the world.” Minister Mustapha added that this undertaking was made possible because of the investments made to equip the GRDB’s rice research facility with the relevant facilities over time.

Guyana was chosen to conduct this trial due to the research station’s excellent performance and the government’s obvious desire to revive the agricultural industry.

Minister Mustapha further revealed that this candidate type has a stronger tolerance to climatic conditions seen in the country, noting the effects that climate change continues to have on the agricultural industry internationally.

Over the years, there has been unparalleled growth in the agricultural sector, due to the implementation of transformative projects.

Back in 2022, the country’s rice topped over US$100M. Despite the inclement weather and reports of flooding that year, Guyana’s rice exports amounted to approximately US$185,000,000.

The ministry had stated that a new export market was opened in Lebanon, with more than 24 tonnes of packaged white rice shipped to the country in 2022.

During that year (January-December), Guyana exported rice and rice products to 40 countries.

The major importing countries were Jamaica, Trinidad, Belgium, Holland, France, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, Columbia, Haiti, Honduras and Venezuela.

In Guyana, rice is an essential source of livelihood. Approximately 6,020 farmers produce rice in several regions throughout Guyana. There are 43 licensed rice millers and 22 registered exporters of rice. Rice accounts for 3.3 per cent of Guyana’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and 20.5 per cent of agriculture GDP.

This industry is currently the largest agricultural sub-sector in Guyana; it is by far the most significant user of arable lands, and several thousands of families are directly and indirectly associated with it.

According to the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), rice is cultivated primarily along the coastal belt in Berbice, Demerara and Essequibo. Rice-growing areas also include Leguan and Wakenaam.

There are two rice crops annually: The first (spring) and second (autumn) crops. The second (autumn) crop is planted around April-June and reaped in September-October. In contrast, the first (spring) crop is grown in November-December and harvested in March-April.

The country is now also providing technical support to neighbouring CARICOM states such as Trinidad and Tobago.

Just last month, Guyana provided seed paddies and technical personnel to help the Twin Island Republic.