A good year for agriculture
--- expanded 'Demerara Gold' market being sought By Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
January 4, 2004

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Minister of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock and acting Minister of Agriculture, Satyadeow Sawh, has described last year as a successful one for the local agricultural sector.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday to review the performance of the agriculture largest sector for last year, Sawh said despite several constraints including low commodity prices on the international market and difficult weather conditions the sector did well. As such he commended everyone involved in the agricultural sector for their significant contribution and efforts in ensuring a successful performance.

Reporting at the press conference on the performance of the sugar industry for last year, acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO), Keith Ward, said, "it wasn't a bad year but not as good expected."

He disclosed that sugar production was 302,379 tonnes, which was lower than expected, with Berbice Estates producing 61% of that amount while the Demerara Estates produced the remainder. In addition, he indicated that 150 tonnes of organic sugar were produced at Uitvlugt Estate but that could not have been marketed because it was not certified, however, it has now been certified, as such markets would have to be identified for the product.

The CEO explained that production was lower than anticipated because of inclement weather during the second crop. However, he said that the corporation was able to meet all its market obligations including the preferential European market, while the Jamaican, Barbadian and Trinidadian markets were penetrated.

Ward noted that its new packaged sugar that was launched last year, "Demerara Gold," has been well received in the Caribbean market and the corporation is now trying to expand the market for it during this year, and one continue in its efforts to produce more value added products.

He also reported that a contract for the Skeldon expansion and modernization project should be finalized within the first quarter of the year, while the joint project for the establishment of a US$10M venture with the Trinidadian firm Angustura is ongoing and should be formalized later this year.

Angustura signed a memorandum of understanding for the project with GUYSUCO last year.

As regards the financial performance of GUYSUCO for last year, the CEO said the figures are now being put together but he is optimistic that a profit would be declared.

Touching on the projections for this year, Ward said about 10.5 thousand hectares of cane would be replanted and production of sugar is expected to reach 320,000 tonnes, with the first crop anticipated to begin at the end of this month or early next month.

Responding to the closure of the Demerara Estates which is being touted by the international financial institutions Sawh said President Bharrat Jagdeo "is on record as saying the Government is against any closure."

Dealing with the rice industry, CEO of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), Jagnarine Singh said it performed creditably with the production of rice being 355,000 tonnes as compared to 218,000 tonnes for 2002. Paddy yield was up also from 64.7 bags per hectare in 2002 to 67.3 bags per hectare.

Over 200, 000 tonnes of rice was exported and the demands of the preferential EU markets and the CARICOM market were met, Jagnarine reported that small quantities were also exported to Brazil and Venezuela, noting that the former has a large market but because of the language and bureaucracy some difficulties were encountered in making full use of the market. However, he indicated that most of the difficulties have now been overcome clearing the way for increased exports. He added that export to Haiti is also increasing and efforts are being made to get into the Colombian and Panamanian markets.

Development of high-yielding and high disease resistant varieties of rice are ongoing, while the paddy bug problem has been countered with the successful establishment of "Farmers Field Schools" to train farmers in the technique of integrated pest management. This he said resulted in damages to rice decreasing from about 20% during the first crop to about 4-5% during the second crop.

It is projected that for this year rice production would increase to 367,000 tonnes while the yield is expected to be 68.5 bags of paddy per hectare, and rice exports estimated to reach 234,000 tonnes, Jagnarine indicated.