NARI to facilitate expansion of agriculture commercialism
By Dale Andrews
February 15, 2007
President Bharrat Jagdeo has urged the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) to develop a plan to move from mere experimenting to facilitating expanded agriculture commercialism.
The Guyanese leader made the charge during a visit to the Mon Repos facility, yesterday, where he met with senior officials and toured the operations.
President Jagdeo observed that the institute has the capacity to facilitate large-scale commercial farming in many non-traditional agricultural products, but noted that some of the processes are taking too long.
With a budget of $200M per year, NARI undertakes studies which are aimed at improving yields by adopting cost effective methods, and fostering expansion in the production of non-traditional agricultural products.
The President said that one of his primary reasons for visiting the institute was to ensure that the resources allocated are focused on areas of national priority.
He observed that there is a tendency to keep focusing on a few issues without any forward movement in terms of opening up a sustainable agricultural drive in the non-traditional areas.
Already NARI has been pioneering the implementation of agricultural modules in the traditional sectors, such as rice and cattle.
“I am here to see that the things you are working on are not just pilots. Money spent here will be the stimulant for the diversification of the economy,” the Guyanese leader said. “NARI must lead the way,” he stressed.
President Jagdeo noted that Guyana is charged with the responsibility of leading the regional agricultural effort, and he has urged Caribbean leaders to look at the agricultural plans with a bit more optimism.
He emphasised that agriculture should be the first beneficiary of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy.
“There was a time when tourism was more of a priority. But we have secured the commitment of regional leaders (to look more favourably at agriculture).”
He urged the NARI administration to engender strategies to promote agriculture commercialism by collaborating more with the private sector.
According to Director of the institute, Dr. Oudho Homenauth, a strategy has already been developed to promote agriculture commercialism through collaboration with the private sector. He said that the officers are at the moment developing land use maps to benefit farmers, through a project which was started last year and is expected to be completed this year.
“We can make recommendations on proper land use. We determine the acidity of the land and can make recommendations on how to use the land,” Dr. Homenauth explained.
To this President Jagdeo urged that NARI builds the capacity to do similar testing in all the regions, especially in the field of organic manure, to reduce the dependency on nitrogen fertilizer. In the area of non-traditional products, mushroom and potato cultivation should be looked at.
President Jagdeo advised that emphasis should be placed on developing a seed production facility for much of the food Guyana imports, such as potatoes and mushrooms, noting that millions of dollars are already being spent on a similar project involving rice.
The President noted that with regard to mushroom cultivation, it is taking too long to transfer from the experimental stage, since it was reported that presently there are only two known entrepreneurs who have taken up the challenge to cultivate the product locally, although on a very small scale.
He challenged the institute to look at tripling their duck production by year-end.
NARI presently has developed three different stocks of ducks from the world famous Muscovy variety, for which there is a huge demand both locally and internationally.
The black belly sheep experiment is going well, and President Jagdeo expressed a desire to have these high yielding species reared throughout the country, wherever applicable, and pledged support for the expansion of the institute's infrastructure.
“I want to see a drive to adapt various species in Guyana. We don't have the big bucks to do research,” the President said.
He advised that the institute acquire the services of a trained economist, since whatever is undertaken by NARI has to be cost effective.
President Jagdeo was accompanied on his visit by Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud.