Rice output, exports up over 2002
By Nigel Williams
January 5, 2004
Low market prices for rice and the high cost of production are the two major obstacles that continue to affect the local industry but it still managed to register higher output and exports last year compared to 2002.
And General Secretary of the Rice Producers Association Dharamkumar Seeraj said slow restructuring of some of the closed- down rice mills and poor payments for paddy added to the industry's woes.
In an interview with Stabroek News last week, General Manager of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) Jagnarine Singh said that given all of the challenges the industry did well in 2003.
For last year a total of 127,612 hectares of land were prepared compared to 107,902 for 2002, which represented an 18% increase.
Singh disclosed that paddy production last year was 545,976 metric tonnes, while the figure was 443,654 metric tonnes in 2002. Rice production was 354,884 metric tonnes last year and 288,375 metric tonnes in 2002. The overall yield per hectare last year was 67.35 bags while in 2002 it was 64.7.
Singh told this newspaper that overall exports were 200,345 metric tonnes for 2003, whereas 2002's exports were 193,416 metric tonnes. The value of exports last year was US$47M, $2M more than in 2002.
Singh revealed that the Caricom markets purchased a total of 50,439 tonnes of rice for 2003; Jamaica continues to be the largest importer buying some 27,000 tonnes. However, he observed that despite this, Jamaica bought less rice in 2003 when compared to the 37,000 tonnes it purchased in 2002. He said the other large Caricom market was Trinidad and Tobago which purchased around 20,000 tonnes.
A total of 115,000 tonnes was exported to the European Union (EU) market; 22,000 tonnes went via the Other Countries and Territories (OCT) route. Another 14,000 tonnes were exported to other countries.
Giving an overview of the sector's performance, Singh said that yields had to be improved and production and labour costs reduced. "We have to look at our land preparation and labour cost and try hard to improve our drainage and irrigation which helped to slow down production this year."
He added that market prices continued to be low: US$210 per metric tonne of cargo rice and US$255-280 for bulk rice.
With regard to the restructuring of bank loans, Singh told this newspaper that this was moving apace. He said that at the beginning of 2003, the overall paddy debt (what farmers owed the banks) was $4B, but this has now dropped to $1.8B. The rice milling debt (rice millers' indebtedness) was $6.3B at the beginning of 2003 and it now stands at $3.7B. However, he said there were a few persons who were still to have their debts restructured.
Meanwhile, in an invited comment, Seeraj said that while the industry has made some significant strides this year one of the major barriers which continues to affect rice production was the closure of some of the rice mills.
Several millers were forced to close down their operations early in 2003 because of financial constraints and according to Seeraj, he does not see some of them restarting in the near future. He noted that the closure of the mills meant less competition, resulting in some of the millers paying farmers "next to nothing prices" for their paddy. He said that prolonged delays for the payment of paddy were further aggravated by the closure of the mills.
In terms of production, Seeraj informed that for the first crop which ended in June, 4.4 million bags of paddy were harvested from 64,130 hectares of land planted. The figures represent 99% of the total harvest, which yielded 4.3 tonnes of rice per hectare.
Additionally, for the autumn crop which ended in November, harvesting countrywide has been recorded at over 4 million bags.
The overall percentage recorded was 99.2 with 4.2 tonnes per hectare.
Giving a breakdown as to how production went Seeraj informed that in Region Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam), the target set was 13,158 hectares, of which 13,020 were prepared and sown and 12,945 harvested.
The amount of paddy harvested was 990,151 bags (99.4%). The yield was 4.9 tonnes per hectare.
In Region Three (Essequibo Islands/West Demerara) the target was 1,296 but only 1,174 hectares were prepared and sown and 1,170 harvested. This resulted in 80,920 bags of paddy (99.7%). The yield was 4.4 tonnes per hectare.
In Region Four (Demerara/Mahaica), Cane Grove/Biaboo harvested 193,836 bags of paddy from 2,706 hectares. The target was 2,761 hectares. The region recorded a 100 per cent harvest with 4.6 tonnes per hectare yield.
In Region Five (Mahaica/Berbice), 1,447,200 bags of paddy were harvested; of this total Mahaica/Abary produced 655,200 bags. A total of 10,202 hectares was sown. The percentage harvested was 97.7 with a yield of 4.1 tonnes per hectare. Further, approximately 792,000 bags were harvested in West Berbice from 14,575 hectares (99.0%). The yield was 3.5 tonnes per hectare.
And in Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne), approximately 535,175 bags of paddy were harvested at the front lands from 1,879 hectares sown. The percentage harvested was 99.9. Yield was 4.3 tonnes per hectare. In Black Bush Polder 450,630, bags were harvested from 6,757 hectares of land (99.6%). Yield was 4.2 tonnes per hectare.
Seeraj said that the industry managed well to control the paddy bug infestation by assisting in making chemicals available at a low cost to farmers who were affected. A number of acres of rice were destroyed across the country.
Seeraj said the establishment of farmers' field schools along with other programmes assisted in helping the farmers cope and eventually contributed to the success of some of their crops.