Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha on Thursday met with rice farmers of Windsor Forest on the West Coast of Demerara and discussed issues related to the ongoing harvesting period.
The farmers met with President Irfaan Ali last Tuesday, seeking assistance harvesting the remainder of their paddy.
The farmers told the Head of State that due to the inclement weather over the past few days, their combines have been unable to access their fields, resulting in some of their paddy passing the specified harvesting period.
While meeting with the farmers at the Windsor Forest Community Centre Ground, Minister Mustapha told the farmers that the government was committed to increasing rice production and that no effort would be spared to assist them with harvesting the remaining paddy in the region, which is estimated to be some 5,000 acres.
He explained that since the visit by President Ali, extension staff from the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) have conducted a survey to determine the average yield harvested so far and what was left to be harvested and urged the farmers to wait until the assessment is complete to determine the losses.
“According to this survey, when some farmers attempted to harvest the paddy, they found that the fields were a bit soft, but if the weather holds a little, you will be able to harvest in a few days. We cannot anticipate and predict the losses,” the Minister noted.
He added, “Let us wait and see what happens over the coming days. Based on the average yield harvested so far for the entire cultivation in the Region, if farmers cannot reach that average, then we will be able to determine the losses.”
The Subject Minister maintained that the government and the farmers have a vested interest in the sector and pledged the government’s continued support of its development.
“We all have one objective, and that is to ensure we have maximum production. When farmers have maximum production, the country benefits. As Minister of Agriculture, I would like to see an increase in rice production.
I have been engaging our officers from the GRDB, telling them that they are to work with every farmer for the coming crop to ensure every inch of land is cultivated because we want to ramp up production.”
Moreover, Minister Mustapha said he wants farmers’ cost of production to be lowered and yields to increase. And this is why the government continues to make more budgetary allocations available within the agriculture sector.
Minister Mustapha also visited some affected fields to look at the affected plots. After examining some of the affected fields, he told the farmers that extension officers from the GRDB would conduct daily assessments of each field and submit a report on their findings.