– stakeholders aim to export 650,000 tonnes this year
By Navendra Seoraj
GUYANA’S rice industry has not just been a producer of a staple in the diet of Guyanese, but it has also served as a lucrative source of revenue for the country over the years, with 2020 being no different, as this industry raked in US$236.2 million (over G$51B).
This was earned from the exportation of 574,312 tonnes of paddy, rice and rice by-products during the past year. During 2020 (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.
Minus tallied statistics for December 2020, which was not available at press-time, based on information shared with the Guyana Chronicle, exports for January to November 2020 totalled 549,066 tonnes, valuing over US$225 million.
In 2019, for the corresponding period, Guyana exported 481,2l2 tonnes, and earned US$201 million. This represents a growth in exports by 67,854 tonnes, and an increase of US$23 million in export earnings for the local staple.
According to further information shared with this newspaper, 1,057,580 tonnes of paddy, which is equivalent to 687,427 tonnes of rice, were harvested for 2020.
In Guyana, rice is an important source of livelihood. Approximately 6,020 farmers produce rice in several regions throughout Guyana. There are 43 licensed rice millers, and 22 registered exporters of rice. Rice accounts for 3.3 per cent of Guyana’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and 20.5 per cent of agriculture GDP.
This industry is currently the largest agricultural sub-sector in Guyana; it is by far the greatest user of arable lands, and several thousands of families directly and indirectly associated with the industry.
According to the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), rice is cultivated primarily along the coastal belt in Berbice, Demerara and Essequibo. Rice-growing areas also include Leguan and Wakenaam.
There are two rice crops annually: The first (spring) and second (autumn) crops. The second (autumn) crop is planted around April-June, and is reaped in the September-October period, while the first (spring) crop is planted in November-December and harvested in March-April.
For the period on record, January to November 2020, the rice industry performed “extremely well” despite industry challenges. Harvesting for the second-crop is ongoing, and is 99.88 per cent completed.
Some 92,520 hectares of land were cultivated for the first crop of 2020, producing 535,517 tonnes of paddy equivalent to 348,086 tonnes of rice, while 94,132 hectares of land were cultivated for the second crop, producing 522,054 tonnes of paddy, which is equivalent to 339,335 tonnes of rice.
Guyana will be looking to export 649,480 tonnes of paddy, rice and rice-by products, valuing close to US$ 257.3 million, in 2021.
It was reported recently that Guyana’s newest rice variety, GRDB16, has the potential to increase Guyana’s rice output significantly, as the government looks to using this crop to help ensure the country’s development.
Based on past reports, this variety of rice has the potential to produce up to 60 bags per acre, which is equivalent to an average nine tonnes per hectare. The GRDB16 has already demonstrated several qualities that have been desired by rice farmers for a number of years.
The GRDB16 had the characteristics of a premium game-changing variety which maintained its greenness throughout the crop, didn’t lodge as fast as the other varieties, and can come through standing water of up to nine inches. It was also noted that the GRDB16 takes only 110 days to reach maturity.
For the past 15 years, the GRDB has been releasing new varieties of rice to farmers, each demonstrating improved characteristics over the previous one.