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According to the Ministry, extended dry spells and heavy rainfall created situations, which forced the Government, to often deploy resources not originally budgeted.
Despite these and other challenges, the Ministry, in collaboration with its sister agencies and, sometimes, with the support of more in other sectors, was able to overcome the many hurdles and, at the end, realise considerable developments.
The year started with the continuation of the 2001 dry season.
Collaborating with Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), Rice Producers’ Association (RPA), Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO), Georgetown Sewerage and Water Commissioners, Guyana Water Authority (GUYWA) and Mahaica/Mahaicony/Abary Agriculture Development Authority (MMA/ADA), the Ministry decided early how best to meet the water needs of the country, especially those of farmers.
Of primary concern was the likely impact the dry spell could have on the rice industry for the current and next crops and, among the actions considered, were conservation and judicious use of water, augmenting conservancy storage, river pumping and full utilisation of that capability, monitoring and coordinating usage of the commodity and facilities and public awareness programmes.
In February, President Bharrat Jagdeo announced what came to be known as the ‘Rice Relief Package’, which targeted farmers indebted to commercial banks for sums not exceeding $10M.
After lengthy negotiations with Guyana Association of Bankers, the deal entailed write-offs, rescheduling and lowering of interest rates on borrowings, among the benefits.
There were some difficulties in implementing the agreement but they were ironed out in due course and Ministry of Agriculture, RPA and more stakeholders in the industry held face-to-face meetings to explain the arrangements to intended beneficiaries.
In February, Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) had to clamp down on the Forest Producers Association in Region 10 (Upper Demerara/Berbice), for illegally harvesting at Moraballi, a gazetted State reserve.
GFC found camps and estimated that 100 persons were in occupation of the area, with estimated 200 cubic metres of sawn lumber (approximately 85,000 board measurement) on the ground.
As a result, two motor vehicles were detained.
In March, the Ministry was called to investigate complaints by residents of Cane Grove, East Coast Demerara, that a rice mill was polluting the atmosphere in the village.
Heavy dust from the factory was affecting the villagers, some of whom complained of itches, other skin irritations and various respiratory afflictions.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was asked to conduct a probe and make recommendations.
In April, a Government initiated inquiry concluded that National Drainage and Irrigation Board (NDIB) and BK International Inc were culpable in the 2001 East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) breach.
The investigators reported that the company started work without adequately consulting the EDWC Commissioners and that, in raising the level of the embankment; the job was not executed in accordance with general conditions, technical specifications and bills of quantities.
While no evidence supported sabotage, there were problems with supervision and experience, the report said.
The April rainy season caused severe flooding on Essequibo Coast, with Maria’s Lodge, Suddie and Onderneeming mostly affected.
The NDIB intervened to urgently desilt the Onderneeming outfall, which was identified as the main cause of the flood.
The rain also affected Good Hope and Montrose on East Coast Demerara, as pumps there and at Annandale were not in full operation, resulting in mobile ones having to be despatched to those places.
Between April 20 and 23, rainfall exceeded 165 mm at Wales, West Bank Demerara and exceeded 90 mm in other places, causing the Government to commit additional funds to stem floods and assist planters who lost cultivations.
Heavy rainfall in June also caused some anxiety. At Boeraserie, in Region Three (West Demerara/ Essequibo Islands), a 24-hour watch was put on the dam to monitor any overtopping but flooding occurred at Canals Numbers One and Two, West Bank Demerara and Parika and Ruby, East Bank Essequibo.
In Region Five (Mahaica/Berbice) floodwaters damaged or destroyed 450 acres of cash crops belonging to 225 farmers and affected 250 heads of cattle.
At Black Bush Polder, Corentyne, rice farmers had to be assisted with harvesting because they were unable to reap about 50 per cent of their holdings flooded by heavy rain.
Agriculture Minister Navin Chandarpal paid an urgent visit to the location and immediately arranged the help with GUYSUCO punts, which transported the harvested paddy.
Finance Minister Sasenarine Kowlessar expedited the tendering process for the clearing of canals and relieved that situation.
In November, more floods, caused by rain, hit Region One (Barima/Waini) and corn, melon and leafy vegetables cultivations, also at Kaituma, Koriabo and Aruka, were lost.
Ministry of Agriculture responded, as well, to a request for assistance to Pomeroon coconut farmers, whose trees were infested with caterpillar worms and chemicals, valued about $500,000 were distributed to 64 farmers.
Meanwhile, the Government Acoushi Ants Programme continued in Region Nine (Upper Takutu/ Upper Essequibo), with fogging machines.
CARICOM Leaders, at their Inter-Sessional Meeting in Belize, decided to close the Regional Programme for Animal Health Assistants (REPAHA) and merge it with that at Guyana School of Agriculture.
Minister Chandarpal, at the June World Food Summit in Rome, advocated a “new meaning to globalisation”, one that would emphasise greater cooperation among States and allow all to pursue a path to sustainable development.
In his speech at the forum, he noted that the reviewed successes and failures following the 1996 Food Summit painted a depressing picture.
Agriculture Month activities here in October were considered a success under the theme ‘Adding value to enhance agriculture in rural areas’.
A grand World Food Day exhibition was staged at Albion, Corentyne, Berbice and similar shows were mounted in other Regions.
Sugar production for the year is estimated at 320,093 tonnes, more than in the past two years and progress is being made on the Skeldon Modernisation Project.
GUYSUCO anticipates 2003 to be an even better year for production and agriculture as a whole.
An outstanding achievement for the corporation was the 621 tonnes of organic sugar produced for the first time.
(A GINA feature by Beverley Alert)