Category Archives: Agriculture

Despite full page ads which claim compliance….Bai Shan Lin delinquent with NIS and PAYE payments

Even though Chinese Logging Company Bai Shan Lin in a full page advertisement last Thursday claims to be creating jobs and contributing to Guyana, it has not been up to date in its NIS and PAYE payments.
Checks revealed that the company, Bai Shan Lin International Forest Development which was registered in 2007 only started paying NIS and PAYE in 2013. Bai Shan Lin Housing and Construction Inc which was registered in 2012 only paid NIS and PAYE in October 2013.
Further checks revealed that Bai Shan Lin Ship Building Inc which was registered in 2012 has never paid NIS or PAYE. Bai Shan Lin Mining Development Inc was registered in August 2013 and has never paid any NIS or PAYE contributions.
The records are a clear contradiction of what the advertisement by Bai Shan Lin claimed. In the advertisement, BSL stated that it is committed to abiding by the laws of Guyana in its execution of work in the forestry sector.
It is unclear whether workers are required to pay their own NIS and PAYE, but the company has not been up to date with payments, one source explained.
The company also claimed that having started operations in Guyana since 2007, it then moved to purchase logs from local concessionaires and entered into joint venture agreements with several.
However even though Bai Shan Lin International Forest Development Inc began local operations in 2007, the records would show something different. The company registered with the Deeds Registry in 2012. Required by law, it submitted financial statements up to August 2014.
Bai Shan Lin International Ship Building and Company Inc was registered around the same time and has submitted financial statements up until 2014.
Indian Logging Company, Vaitarna Holdings Private Inc, has been paying since 2007. But Vaitarna is not registered with the Deeds Registry as a company operating out of Guyana.
Bai Shan Lin, a Chinese logging company, has big plans for Guyana: forest concessions covering 960,000 hectares; a 20-kilometre river gold mining concession; a 500-hectare Guyana-China Timber Industry Economic and Trading Cooperation Park and a 160-hectare real estate development.
Despite the scale of the planned operations, Bai Shan Lin’s agreements with the government of Guyana are not public and there has been no discussion in the National Assembly about the company’s plans.
In Guyana, it is illegal for a logging company to take over another logging company’s operation, unless officially authorized by the President. Yet Bai Shan Lin has managed to enter into large scale joint ventures with a number of locals.
In June, Bai Shan Lin submitted an application to the Environmental Protection Agency seeking environmental authorization to undertake a large scale logging and sawmill operation.
According to the public notice which was published, the company asked for the authorization for several areas including the Left Bank of the Essequibo River, Right Bank Berbice River, Right Bank Essequibo River, Left Bank Corentyne River, Left Bank Lysles River, River Bank Berbice River and Right Bank Powis River, as well as locations with Regions Nine and Six.
Bai Shan Lin has been granted a forestry concession that amounts to close on one million hectares of rainforest, from which it plans to extract logs and ship them out of Guyana. The company estimates that it will make US$1,800 from each hectare of land, giving it profits totaling US$1.7 billion, according to redd-monitor.org.
In addition, the Chinese company sought permission to dig up a 20-kilometre stretch of river to look for gold.
Other plans include setting up what it is calling a Guyana-China Timber Industry Economic and Trading Corporation Park, plus a 400-acre real estate development. The plans were announced in 2012 by Chu Wenze, Chairman of Bai Shan Lin, at the Second World Congress on Timber and Wood Products Trade in Taicang, China.
Those plans were announced even before Guyana knew of it. The country became aware of what was happening only when Bai Shan Lin officials visited Guyana and held discussions with President Donald Ramotar and other Government officials.
On Redd-monitor.org, it was stated that in November 2012, Chu Wenze, the Chairman of Chinese logging company Bai Shan Lin, gave a presentation outlining his company’s plans for Guyana at the World Congress in Taicang, China. These plans have threatened Guyana’s proposals to reduce deforestation and forest degradation.
In November 2012, Whu Wenze and David Dabydeen, Guyana’s Ambassador to China, took part in a signing ceremony for a loan from the Chinese Development Bank for Bai Shan Lin’s forestry projects in Guyana.
According to the website Global Timber, Bai Shan Lin’s concessions were acquired from other concession holders, a process known as “landlording” which is illegal in Guyana (unless officially authorised by the President). Under Guyanese law, forest concessions cannot be traded, but must be re-advertised by the Forestry Commission in an open auction.

School of Agriculture yields 120 graduates

One hundred and twenty persons including 55 females on Friday graduated from the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA) with diplomas and certificates.

The students, from the GSA’s Mon Repos and Essequibo campuses completed courses in agriculture, animal health, and forestry and for the first time, agro-processing. During the graduation exercise, GSA’s relevance in the changing agricultural and development setting was highlighted, the Government Information Agency (GINA) reported.

This is the institution’s 50th anniversary and graduation exercise and it has been playing a leading role in agriculture education in Guyana and in the Caribbean in building capacity, GINA said while noting that one of the graduates is a scholarship student from St Vincent and the Grenadines.

A graduate collects his prize and trophy from Mrs Alli Baksh, wife of the Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, Alli Baksh. (GINA photo)

In delivering the keynote address, Minister of Agriculture Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said that the 50th class was testament to the strength of the institution. “For those of you graduating today, you should feel a sense of pride that you are graduating from a school that has a long and good history, and you will add to its reputation,” he was quoted as saying. “I look forward to seeing many of you contributing to the success of agriculture in our country,” he added.

GINA reported that government is investing $1.2 million per student per year at the GSA. The report said that at the GSA and at the Guyana Sugar Corporation’s Training Centre at Port Mourant, government is investing approximately $600 million in the training of young people to participate in the development of agriculture.

“We see agriculture as a vehicle to accelerate our development. Agriculture has been responsible for bringing Guyana as a least developing country to low middle income country. It is now time that we move towards a high middle income country and I am confident that agriculture is the vehicle that will take us there,” Ramsammy said. Government recognises that unless it develops its human resources, “the potential of agriculture to rapidly bring our country to another level of development (high middle income country) will not happen,” he added, according to GINA.

GINA reported that the school has introduced a number of new courses. “To satisfy the skill of the agro-processing sector, and as well to provide students with skills to establish their own enterprises, a new one-year certificate in agro-processing was introduced for the academic year 2013-2014,” the report said.

Meantime, a new course in theoretical and practical aspects of the operation of tractors was also introduced. In addition, two short courses -the operation, repairs and maintenance of small equipment which targets field workers, technicians and farmers; and urban agriculture techniques in grow box/hydroponics targeting women involved in urban farming, field technicians and teachers have been added to the curriculum.

The GSA 50th graduation procession

Ramsammy challenged the GSA’s management to commit to further developing the curriculum and to introduce new courses and further distance learning for the school. He posited that the various farms operated by the Guyana Livestock Development Authority and the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute can serve as attachment centres for the students, who could be facilitated in short specialist courses such as the management of black sigatoka disease and red palm mites, GINA said.

Meanwhile, the graduates were charged to set ablaze the modernisation of agriculture by Country Representative of the Inter-American Institution for Cooperation on Agricu-lture Wilmot Garnett. “Those of you from the rural communities, remember you are privileged to be selected to lead and empower especially our small farmers. You have been educated to modernise agriculture,” Garnett was quoted as saying.

He noted that the GSA has done its part in ensuring that students are well-rounded and ready to meet the challenges of agriculture. He encouraged the students to be steadfast in their approach and proactive in confronting these challenges, GINA reported. Garnett also urged the maintaining of zeal and professionalism and encouraged continued learning and networking to keep up to date on new technologies and practices.

This year’s Chief Executive Officer’s prize went to Hussain Ali. This award is given to the best graduating student in any of the two-year programmes offered by the institution at its Mon Repos campus. The Chairman’s Prize (the best graduating student in any of the two programmes offered by the institution at its Essequibo campus) went to Benny Augustus, GINA reported.

Minister of Agriculture Dr. Leslie Ramsammy and ICCA’s Country Representative Wilmot Garnett with the GSA Board of Director, staff and part of the 2014 graduating class in the Diploma in Agriculture (GINA photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shaik Baksh to be GuySuCo Board chairman -sources

Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Water Incor-porated and former Education and Housing Minister Shaik Baksh will be the new Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), sources say.

Stabroek News was reliably informed that President Donald Ramotar will be making the announcement after meeting with his cabinet tomorrow. Ramotar said on Saturday that the new GuySuCo board will be announced this week.

When Stabroek News contacted Baksh on Thursday, he said that “certain things are under negotiations” and added that he could not confirm anything as yet.

Meanwhile, head of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) Komal Chand is awaiting a formal response from the Agriculture Ministry on whether the invitation to sit on the board would be extended to another member of GAWU and not just him. Chand explained that he would not be sitting on the board but had written to Agriculture Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy requesting that GAWU be allowed to select another representative. “At this point in time my union would rather be pleased to have your invitation extended for its central executive committee to select a suitable person to be its representative on the corporation’s board,” Chand wrote. He told Stabroek News that he was looking forward to the response and the union on Saturday at the general council’s meeting, would be discussing possible names to be submitted. The GAWU leader stated that they do not want to be preemptive and submit any names to the ministry but will await a response because the initial invitation was to him directly and not GAWU.

On June 16, during a rally at the Enmore Martyrs Monument at Enmore, East Coast Demerara, Ramotar publicly invited Chand to sit on the next GuySuCo board. This was after Chand criticised GuySuCo’s management during his address at the rally. Blaming the depressed state of the corporation on poor management, Chand had said “A new board of directors is long, long overdue…, especially since the last Chairman became the new Chief Executive Officer, leaving GuySuCo headless and the present board headless….”

Chand revealed that     he had since received a formal invitation from Ramsammy to sit on the board. He said that the decision is not being taken lightly and all the factors will need to be considered especially in relation to the union’s position as a critical member of the corporation and its current management.

Chand had said that the management system is flawed and the appointment of the previous board chairman Rajendra Singh to the position of CEO did little to ease worries over the management structure of the state-owned company. He had also called for full disclosure of how the over $31 billion that was handed over by the European Union(EU) as the accompanying measures to the reform of the EU sugar regime, was spent. The restructuring of GuySuCo’s board has taken over a year. Last October, it was revealed that the company was without a properly functioning board since June. Ramsammy had responded that the life of the board was extended until the end of the year. The new board was to be announced at the beginning of July.

In addition, the position of Deputy CEO has to be filled and currently no one has been identified to take over for Paul Bhim who will step down as the Director of Finance.

Criticism of the state-owned corporation has mounted and industry experts have called for the formulation of a real strategic plan that will address the crisis in the sugar industry. Ramotar’s decision to appoint Singh to the post of CEO when the company is struggling with over $58 billion in debt has also been questioned as it was pointed out that Singh is not a financial expert nor an agriculturist.

Stakeholders were hoping that the new board would comprise experts who have a deep understanding of the sugar industry and how to move it beyond its current struggles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No turnaround for sugar industry…GuySuCo produces sugar at double world market price

- owes over US$170M in debts  
- employees’ contributions not paid, benefits in jeopardy

As concerns continue to grow over the viability of the country’s sugar industry, Government yesterday said that it is seriously considering other alternatives, including going the route of producing ethanol.

Agriculture Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, and GuySuCo top executives yesterday.

The disclosure was made yesterday by Agriculture Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, as the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) appeared for the second time in less than a week before the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Economic Services.
But Dr Ramsammy’s comments seemed to echo those made by Anthony Vieira, a former sugar producer, in a letter published in the Kaieteur News, yesterday.
The industry is in a deep trouble with no immediate end in sight.
According to Minister Ramsammy, Government believes that GuySuCo’s future lies in mechanization and diversification. He pointed to an ethanol pilot project ongoing at Albion Estate in Berbice which will determine how GuySuCo proceeds in the future.
GuySuCo’s option of going the ethanol route is one that the Opposition has indicated a willingness to back.
But it is not only the Opposition that has been flaying Government over GuySuCo.
The letter pages in the daily newspapers have been filled with protests from local analysts, including Professor Clive Thomas and former sugar executive, Tony Vieira, among others.
In a stinging letter yesterday, Vieira, a former Member of Parliament, said that since September 2013, the world market price for sugar was fluctuating between US$0.16 a pound and US$0.19 a pound. He argued that the long term outlook for sugar, as far as price is concerned, is not good.
With GuySuCo admitting that production costs will only drop to around US$0.25 at best, it will only mean that taxpayers will have to consistently bail the industry out.
Vieira also slammed the US$200M expansion of Skeldon, calling it “a monstrous mistake by itself.”
“They are reluctant to admit that they created a white elephant and are now making a second mistake by turning to the production of packaged sugar instead of ethanol, which is what they should have done once they had made this disastrous decision to expand the Guyana industry when everyone else was downgrading/abandoning theirs. Trinidad, Jamaica, St Kitts and Barbados are good examples, due to the loss of the EU subsidy.”
Not only does GuySuCo owe US$170M in both short and long term debts, including for the troubled flagship Skeldon factory, but it is producing sugar at an unrealistic US$0.35 per pound and selling for a worrying loss of an average US$0.25 per pound.
According to GuySuCo’s outgoing Finance Director, Paul Bhim, GuySuCo owes banks – both local and foreign, suppliers, the Guyana Revenue Authority, the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Fund Committee (SILWFC) some $58B.
With regards to NIS payments, there have been repeated claims of non-payment of contributions, and there are now fears over how this will affect workers who are claiming benefits.
It also owes another US$112M loaned to the Guyana Government for the New Skeldon Sugar Factory by the World Bank, China EXIM Bank and Caribbean Development Bank.
GuySuCo is asking for patience, saying that Guyana will have to wait until 2017, as part of its strategy to turn the fortunes of the industry around, to bring production prices to about US$0.27 per pound. Between last year and now, Parliament approved US$50M. GuySuCo now wants another US$30M to help the industry.
But there is still no guarantee what will happen in 2017 as already sugar prices have plunged from over US$700 per tonne in December to below US$500 per tonne. To realistically compete with the rest of the world, Guyana must bring down its production costs to below US$0.20 per pound.
Industry experts are forecasting that sugar prices will remain depressed for some time as neighbouring Brazil and Thailand have increased their output, helping to flood the world market. GuySuCo itself has said that there is glut in the world market of almost two million tonnes. This has driven prices down.
The Skeldon expansion project is the most expensive project to date in Guyana. Shortly before he left office in 2011, former President Bharrat Jagdeo said he would have personally made it his duty to ensure the problematic Skeldon factory is fixed.

Essequibo rice farmers’ group head, secretary slapped with more charges

Chairman of the Essequibo Paddy Farmers’ Associa-tion and the body’s secretary were yesterday slapped with additional charges when appeared before Magistrate Sunil Scarce at the Charity Magistrate’s Court.

The men, Naith Ram and Taij Persaud Seecharan, were among those who were charged on Tuesday last with riotous behaviour after they had staged a protest and later burned tyres and blocked the Land of Plenty Public Road.

The police say that on July 4 at Land of Plenty, Ram intentionally exposed his genitals. They further alleged that he unlawfully assaulted Jezel John, a police officer, on the same date. Ram, who is 53 years old, was represented by Hemraj Rajkumar and pleaded not guilty to both charges.

In his application for reasonable bail, Rajkumar said that his client is not a flight risk and will attend his trial. Ram was granted self-bail on the assault charge and $30,000 bail on the indecent exposure charge.

Meanwhile, Seecharan was charged with unlawfully assaulting Taleshwar Singh. He was also represented by Rajkumar and pleaded not guilty.

Seecharan told the magistrate, “me en even know who name so, Sir.” Rajkumar told the court that his 54-year-old client is a pastor and a rice farmer and is not a flight risk.

Magistrate Scarce granted Seecharan bail in the sum of $10,000.

Both men were ordered to return to court on August 5 when their trials will commence.

Essequibo rice farmers assured of payment by August 8th

-during meeting with President

In the aftermath of a protest that landed 17 of their number before the court on Tuesday, Esse-quibo rice farmers were yesterday given an assurance by the government that outstanding paddy payments would be made by August 8th.

However, the rice farmers remain frustrated that they have once again been promised reforms of the the industry but with no comprehensive plan attached.

During a meeting with the farmers at the Hampton Court Primary School yesterday, during which President Donald Ramotar was also present, Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy and Head of the Rice Producers Association (RPA) Dharamkumar Seeraj notified farmers that all outstanding payments would be made by August 8.

Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy addressing the gathering. President Donald Ramotar is seated second from right.

Farmers in attendance, around 80 in total, were left wondering how this promise was any different than in years past. Neither Ramsammy nor Seeraj volunteered what the consequences would be for millers who remained delinquent in payments.

With the second rice crop to commence in late July/early August, Esse-quibo farmers are annoyed that payments are still outstanding. Moreover, there is growing tension that bad news may be on the horizon with the projected paddy price per bag to drop by $500 to $2500. Farmers are stressing that the paddy production cost per bag is in excess of $2300. With the likely drop in the price, earnings will be significantly less and with the lengthy time millers take to pay, paddy farmers are worried their livelihoods are at stake more so than ever before.

It was these concerns that led to the protest two Fridays ago that culminated in the police firing teargas and allegations of police brutality. The Essequibo Coast area is a stronghold of the PPP/C government and the intensity of the protest would have taken it by surprise.

One farmer told Stabroek News yesterday that while the Minister, the RPA head and President Ramotar all took turns addressing the crowd, the presentations did little to highlight the plight of famers. Instead farmers complained that the addresses took on more political tones which made the gathering agitated that their issues were once again being sidelined.

Stabroek News understands that the revolving fund for rice farmers that was proposed by the ministry went no further than Ramsammy stating that it could be something for the future. Farmers told Stabroek News that the revolving fund would need to be established in conjunction with farmers, millers, the government and banks, however the ministry did not seem to actually be considering such an initiative as there was no specific mechanism discussed during the speeches.

One farmer said that “they are drafting, they are seeing if this can work… the money will have to come from the government initially, but they will see if this is something that is possible and who will be in charge of handing out the money.”

A section of the gathering

Head of the Essequibo Paddy Farmers Associa-tion, Naith Ram, who led the protest two Fridays ago, told Stabroek News yesterday that farmers were only given the chance to ask three questions prior to the meeting being dissolved. He said that one farmer made it pellucid that the protests on July 4 were not political and the real concern was that the farmers’ issues were not being taken seriously.

Ram told Stabroek News that during the addresses “they are just trying to water down the situation. Our expectation was they would come with more concrete resolution, they would make pressure on the millers. It was just all watered down. They came here to quiet down the situation and to build back the political support they have lost.”

Instead of addressing the late payments with concrete measures, farmers were told that millers had up to August 8th to pay outstanding debts. Ram told Stabroek News that the minister was cautious when he spoke about the August 8th deadline.

He said that what was explained was that millers would need to seek other markets and as a result the payments would be late in the future. Ram told Stabroek News “that is not our problem we are selling paddy and within 42 days we need to be paid or else it earns interest. That is not our concern when the miller moves it, we are selling by a time and a date and we should be paid.”

Bumper paddy crops in the last year have created pressure on the price that farmers are getting and finding new markets has been a big problem for millers. Venezuela’s barter market remains the biggest but finding other major openings has proven difficult.

Ram’s sentiments were echoed by other farmers who spoke with Stabroek News. They wanted realistic commitments from the RPA and the ministry that would reduce production costs prior to the first crop of 2015. As it stands, many farmers have stated that lags in payments from the first crop this year have impacted on their second crop plans.

In his address, Seeraj criticized the July 4 protest.

He said “the rice farmers should have gone and protest by the residence of the millers but instead they went on the Anna Regina High Bridge and nearly broke down the heritage site. Even if the farmers were subjected to some harassment, the matter could have been dealt with in a more appropriate manner. There is nothing wrong with protesting but once you maintain law and order and do not interfere with other people. Peaceful protesting means exactly that. Vendors from the market trying to get home on that Friday night couldn’t get home. School children could not get home. These were just ordinary people trying to go about their business. The protest wasn’t only rice farmers who were protesting but people were paid to go and make mischief. Drinking rum from since 12 in the day, putting tyres in their car trunks, the protest was premeditated.”

Seeraj said the farmers should be cognizant that “We have evaluated the cost and the price of rice on the world market and now we have to react to these prices. We are prepared to go the extra mile with you. We will overcome the hurdles. However, we have to view the rice industry as our main business. Our aim is to increase productivity, lower costs, get better prices, get better payment conditions in order to deal with the issues facing the rice industry.”

Arguing that the PPP/C government has invested large amounts in the industry, Ramsammy said the millers must find a way to pay the rice farmers who are owed monies from the last crop.

“We are not going into the next crop with any farmers who are still owed by millers. I made this clear to the millers when we held meetings across the country. In Essequibo, they reported to me that the millers agreed that by the past week a certain amount of money was going to be paid to farmers. I was told that the amount would come up to about $400M as part of the payment that was owed. I said to them that it’s unacceptable. We have to get more money. I immediately arranged a meeting with the millers in Georgetown. So while some people were misbehaving and protesting, meetings were being held and I instructed the millers to do everything possible to ensure that rice farmers are paid.”

Ram told Stabroek News that since charges were instituted against him and the other farmers on Tuesday they were all bonded to keep the peace. No further protests are planned in the near future but the main focus on their agenda now is to register the rice farmers group so that they can be more recognized.

“We will try to speak with all the rice farmers through a television programme informing them of our plans”, he said.

Guyana to benefit from Mexico/IICA technical agriculture programme

Guyana and 13 other Caribbean nations are set to benefit from an agriculture co-operation agreement between Mexico and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) that will train 150 technical personnel from the region in priority areas for agricultural development.

The agreement was signed by Secretary of Agriculture, Livestock Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (Sagarpa) of Mexico, Enrique Martinez y Martinez and Director General of the IICA Victor M Villalobos within the framework of the Third Mexico-Caribbean Community (Caricom) Summit held in Yucatan, Mexico in April, a statement from the IICA said.

The programme will be conducted in three phases, the first of which is training in Mexico. Participants will also be drawn from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, The Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, Suriname, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.

The second phase involves the transfer of appropriate technology and capabilities acquired during the course, with supervised practicum in the respective countries through local projects, while the third phase will entail systemisation of the lessons learned and evaluation of the training programme, especially the results relating to productivity and the adaptation of Good Agricultural Practices to the conditions of each Caribbean country.

The Mexican Embassy in Guyana and the IICA said the ministry identified 13 officers to participate in the programmes in areas of family farming, protected agriculture, sheep production, rural tourism and plant pathology. Eight officers departed Guyana over the weekend while the remaining five will travel between month end and early August to participate in the programme, each of which will run for about two weeks.

Gov’t committed to exploring avenues to protect rice industry

President Donald Ramotar addressing Region 2 rice farmers.

- President Ramotar tells Essequibo farmers

PRESIDENT Donald Ramotar, accompanied by Agriculture Ministers, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy and Ally Baksh, and officials from the Rice Producers’ Association (RPA) yesterday met with rice farmers at Golden Fleece and Hampton Court on the Essequibo Coast.Last week a number of rice farmers led by an Alliance For Change (AFC) Councillor took to the streets in an unlawful demonstration, burning tyres, blocking roadways and assaulting police officers over delayed payments for paddy by millers. A number of them were taken into custody and later placed on bail.

From left, RPA General Secretary Dharamkumar Seeraj, President Donald Ramotar, Minister within the Ministry of Agriculture Ally Baksh and Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy.

The Head of State emphasised the importance of the rice industry, not only to individual farmers, but to the country’s economic development as a whole. He explained that the Government has been working over the years to diversify the economic base of the economy so as not to be solely dependent on a few traditional industries.
He noted that even though the sugar industry has been facing quite a lot of struggles, the country’s economy has remained strong, and the rice sector has made significant contributions to this.
The President spoke of the support that his Party has given to rice farmers over the years, and took the gathering back to 1964 when the PPP lost the general elections to the PNC. He reminded that some of the first people who faced victimisation were rice farmers. In 1965, the then PNC regime reduced the price to farmers and when they attempted to protest in front of the Parliament, police dogs were released on them.
“The best friend that this industry has ever had has been the People’s Progressive Party in Government…the industry was on its knees when we got in government in 1992, the production was just about 90,000 tonnes of rice,” President Ramotar reminded.

Rice farmers and millers at the meeting in Region 2

As a result of massive investments in drainage and irrigation, opening up of lands, and subsidised prices for fertilizer, farm to market roads, new rice, among other interventions, the rice industry continues to record strong production. Even under the most testing of conditions, it recorded a production of over 400,000 tonnes for the first crop in 2014.
However, new challenges have arisen in the form of locating new markets, higher prices, and finding new ways to make the industry more productive and competitive. In this regard, the Government has dispatched a team of Indian scientists to visit the various mills across the country to determine how energy can be used more efficiently and to expand the industry by using by-products of rice.
The Government is also looking at other forms of marketing that will be competitive for farmers.
With regard to Guyana’s rice deal with neighbouring Venezuela, President Ramotar said, “We do not know what is going to happen in Venezuela, the political situation there is not very good…we have to think beyond that to protect the industry.”
He added that even if Guyana continues to hold the Venezuelan market, the percentage of rice being sold there will continue to fall as production continues to increase. In light of all of this, the President assured that his Government is committed to exploring avenues to ensure that the industry is protected.
Meanwhile, Minister Ramsammy explained that Guyana is a small country; it cannot consume all the rice it produces.
“We consume totally industrially and for food approximately 120,000 tonnes…it means that we have to export close to 500,000 tonnes. In 2006, we were only exporting about 200,000 tonnes. Last year, we exported 394,000 tonnes. As we are speaking right now, we have increased the export by 25 percent…by the end of the year between 475,000 and 500,000 tonnes would have been exported,” the Minister said.
More rice has been exported to traditional markets such as Jamaica and Europe, and new markets have been added as well, such as Haiti and Panama, which have been buying increasing amounts of rice. The Government is also in the process of negotiating with markets in Central America and Africa.
Only last week, an invitation was received to send a team to Africa to negotiate terms for them to purchase rice from Guyana.
On the issue of millers’ failure to pay farmers in a timely manner, the Minister recalled that earlier this year, President Ramotar immediately ordered funds to be released to pay farmers who were owed about $300M from the previous year (almost $200M of that amount were for farmers on the Essequibo Coast).
To date, the Government has only collected a small amount of this money that was released.
“Instead of the farmers being owed, we are now owed that amount of money. That is the kind of support we gave. In the last several months, we have released further amounts…our position is that rice farmers must be paid fully and on time,” Minister Ramsammy stated.
General Secretary of the RPA, Dharamkumar Seeraj, in his remarks said that the rice industry benefitted from very good prices at the beginning of the rice deal that is a part of the Petrocaribe arrangement. As a result, farmers took it upon themselves to invest in more acreage, so much so that the acreage cultivated per season moved from 175,000 acres to 226,000 acres, some outside of drainage and irrigation areas.
This year, there was an increase in production plus carry-over stock and only a 200,000 – tonne market to Venezuela. This led to serious implications such as delayed payments, which affected farmers throughout the country.
“We wanted more from Venezuela, both in terms of quantity, as well as duration, but we are taking these issues into consideration before going ahead with plans to rent additional rice lands at high prices and expanding cultivation.
Almost $20B has already been paid to farmers across the country. Recently, some $400M was paid out to rice farmers in Region 2.

(GINA)

 

 

Sowing for second-crop rice already started in some areas

RICE sowing for the second crop has already commenced in some areas, according to General Secretary of the Guyana Rice Producers Association, Mr. Dharamkumar Seeraj.

Seeraj said the major challenge with the winding down of this year’s first crop is the timely payment to farmers, a recurring challenge with each crop.

He told the Chronicle that, to date, a number of farmers in a few of the rice producing regions – in hotspot areas such as Region 2 (Pomeroon/Supenaam), Region 5 (Mahaica/Berbice) and Region 6 (East Berbice/Corentyne) – have not been paid in full.
According to him, two of the millers in Region 2 are having difficulties with payments to the rice farmers. Currently, they are encouraging the millers to meet with their bankers to seek assistance in this matter.
From an industrial perspective, the amount owed to farmers is 20 to 30 per cent of the total amount that was purchased. Seeraj noted that when looking at it from the rice producing regions, 80 per cent of the total amount purchased is owed.
MARKETS

Seeraj also said arrangements are being made for Guyana to export rice to countries in Central America. That aside, he said shipments to Venezuela, Europe and Haiti are continuous. Shipments to Belize, a new market acquired last year, has commenced.
The current crop’s production target is some 260,000 tonnes.

Some 40,000 people depend directly on the rice industry for their livelihood, and the industry provides employment for at least 20,000; while in terms of food security, it has helped to secure Guyana’s status as a food-secure country.

The rice industry contributed about five percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2013 and accounted for more than US$240M in export earnings. Some $500M was allocated to the rice sector in the 2014 National Budget.

(Sandy Agasen)

Participants during the consultation on Dairy Development in Guyana in the Boardroom of the Guyana Livestock Development Authority at Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara.

- Agri Minister sets goals for 2020

MINISTER of Agriculture Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, on Wednesday last, set two goals for dairy producers in Guyana to achieve by 2020 – to reduce the import of milk by 25% and reduce the import of dairy products by 10%.
These goals are attainable, Minister Ramsammy told stakeholders during a consultation on dairy development in Guyana at the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA) at Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara.

Dr Leslie Ramsammy

“Those are ambitious goals, but also reachable goals,” he declared to the stakeholders participating in the consultation, including dairy farmers from various regions, officials of GLDA and persons representing the interests of groups and companies.

PASTURAGE
During the open discussion it was found that the issue of pasturage for the rearing of dairy cows was an issue that needed to be addressed. Minister Ramsammy pointed out that it will be looked into and a decision would have to be arrived at whether there would be collective pasture for cooperatives.
He spoke of great difficulty regarding pasturage over the years, and observed that clearly land cannot be provided near where persons live. The Agriculture Minister said that because it requires huge amounts of land, it would be collective pastures owned by co-ops. Ramsammy observed that there have been many problems encountered with co-ops over time, adding that stakeholders have to get their act together on this issue. “I am trying my best, we are developing some land for that purpose and I hope that people will cooperate with us so we could have that.”
The problem of stray catchers picking up animals was another issue to be addressed by owners of cows living in developed communities.
The meeting also noted other issues to be addressed, such as bettering dairy development through improved genetics to increase milk yields; education for dairy producers; pricing of milk; addressing collection and distribution systems; regulation of milk and dairy products; ownership of plants, either by co-ops or stakeholders; marketing strategies; investors, both local and otherwise, and feed for cows.
Expressing his gratitude to all stakeholders for participating in the discussion, Ramsammy stressed the forum’s importance, pointing out that it was the first one regarding the subject of dairy development in Guyana.

PILLAR OF ECONOMY
He observed that agriculture is a pillar of the country’s economy, contributing approximately 10%, noting that as countries move up the scale, this contribution may become less. Minister Ramsammy noted, however, that Guyana’s import bill for milk in 2013 was US$25M and for milk products in excess of US$35M.
He deplored the fact that this sum was going towards supporting the industries in other countries. The Agriculture Minister stated, however, that changing this could not be done overnight, but Guyana’s products should be able to compete ‘across the board’.  He pointed out that diligent work could see some progress towards this in five to six years.
Ramsammy pointed to the Liliendaal and Versailles dairy initiatives in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which were good ones, but poorly planned and they failed. However there is need to correct them he said, and take the process through the chain to produce fresh, pasteurised milk and milk products.
“Guyana’s focus at this time is meeting our local demands,” he said, adding that if this is done, the CARICOM demands could also be met. “I believe together we can do this.”
The Agriculture Minister pointed out that the GLDA was working on the improvement of breeds of cows, artificial insemination, and embryo transfer.
He said that the mistakes made in the past were due to focusing on one aspect of the programme and not about the breed of the animals, and the end result of the product, adding that it was time to do so.
“We are pursuing livestock development in Guyana from a perspective of a value change, from beginning to end, so there are markets etc…,” he stated. In this context, one of the discussions with the stakeholders would focus on the setting up of a dairy plant.

DAIRY PLANT
Government is talking to persons who can invest, “But we are willing to provide all the technical support and facilities, and we are willing to participate in public/private partnership,” he said.
He indicated, also, that Government is working with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Canadian Government, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), so that the technical support for the venture could be obtained to meet the standard established for commercial production of milk and dairy products.
Minister Ramsammy also pointed out that in the pipeline are the Food Safety Bill and the Animal Welfare Bill which are critical pieces of legislation to support a formal industry. He stated that the first reading of the Food Safety Bill will take place on June 19 and is expected to be passed shortly after without opposition.
He also expressed anticipation of the operationalising of a small dairy plant in Region 6. He said this was a private sector initiative by Freddy’s Supermarket which has announced the procurement of equipment for a small dairy plant to meet the supermarket’s needs with pasteurised milk. The plant is expected to produce 1,000 litres per day. Ramsammy indicated that Government is also speaking to a group of investors about setting up a plant in Region 5.
Pointing out that Sterling Products has been working with farmers in the Essequibo Islands and on the West Demerara, Minister Ramsammy expressed the hope that a meeting with those additional investors could result in formulating a plan to build the industry. He noted, however, that while some persons would not want to be caught up in the commercial aspect, others would.
He said that visits to developing countries have shown that their models had adopted the co-op methods in running dairy plants.
“I do believe that farmers in Guyana should have a say in establishing these plants, and to have a say in honing them,” he said.
The meeting was aimed at establishing a vibrant dairy industry in Guyana, to replace the importation of dairy products into the country with excess to export.
Minister Ramsammy said that there would also be regional meetings to address the same issue and feedback would be provided through a quarterly newsletter on Dairy Development in Guyana, which would contain information provided by the GLDA.
CEO of the GLDA, Dr. Dindyal Permaul who also spoke to the stakeholders, pointed out that milk was an essential part of a healthy diet and Guyana despite many efforts over the years is unable to satisfy the local needs for this product. He gave the assurance that the GLDA had no intention of taking 100 years to reach where they wanted to go. A commitment was given by the GLDA for continued feedback and communication with the producers.

(GINA)