— as harvesting of ‘first crop’ progresses
EVEN as harvesting continues across the country as part of the “first crop” of 2021, there has been no shortage of benefits from Guyana’s rice industry since it has earned the country U.S.$65.7 million (approximately G$14.1 billion) from the export of 154,457 tonnes of paddy, rice and rice by-products, within the past four months.
Based on information shared with the Guyana Chronicle, the country in April alone earned U.S.$33.5 million from the export of 79,670 tonnes of paddy, rice and rice by-products.
Earnings for that month represent an increase of six per cent in weight and 12 per cent in value, when calculated against the 75,360 tonnes of exports and earnings of U.S.$30 million recorded in April, 2020.
At the end of last year, the sector raked in US$236.2 million from the exportation of 574,312 tonnes of paddy, rice and rice by-products.
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, Colombia, Haiti, Honduras, and Venezuela.
At the time, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha had said he was confident that Guyana will attract new markets for rice exports as production yields climb.
The minister was even quoted as saying that the government is seeking to establish new market opportunities, and to increase exports to existing markets.
“We are seeing more interest in other parts of Asia and Europe, so we are working on new markets, and we will have new markets,” Minister Mustapha said, adding that the rice industry has always contributed significantly to the local economy.
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 agricultural GDP.
Considering the industry’s consistent performance, which is justified by the figures recorded within the past four months, it is safe to say that the prospects remain positive, moving forward.
In fact, according to available information, production during the first crop, which is expected to end later this month/early next month, is on course to surpass that of the first crop of 2020, which was 535,517 tonnes.
A total of 87,940 hectares (217,211 acres of lands) have been harvested so far, producing 8,199,271 bags or 520,824 tonnes of paddy, at an average yield of 5.92 tonnes per hectare
Of the 94,039.49 hectares (232,277 acres of land) which were sown, some 93.5 per cent have been harvested so far.
Specific to rice-producing regions, harvesting in Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) is 99.4 per cent complete, while Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) is progressing the slowest, with 85.4 per cent of sown hectares being harvested so far.
Although there were successes, there were also some demerits as 857 acres were lost through inclement weather.
Despite the odds, farmers were able to receive favourable prices for their produce; this ranged from $2,800 to $3,500 per bag of paddy. The highest prices were paid in Regions Four (Demerara-Mahaica) and Five (Mahaica-Berbice).
Authorities foresee similar results during the Autumn (second) crop, for which sowing has already commenced on a small scale in all regions.
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 use this crop to help ensure the country’s development.
Based on past reports, this variety of rice has the potential of producing 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.