Black Immigrant Daily News
Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha speaking at the meeting on Saturday at Bush Lot, WCB
More opportunities are looming in the agriculture sector, subject Minister Zulfikar Mustapha has told farmers at Bush Lot, West Coast Berbice, Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) during a meeting on Saturday.
He responded to several issues which farmers raised during that meeting, among them that some farmers were cultivating crops on dams, making it difficult for others to access their farms, and causing sluices to be blocked and necessitating the desilting of the Abary River.
One farmer pointed out the urgency of Government’s intervention to prevent the constant flooding experienced as a result of heavy rainfall, and fisherfolk also called on the Minister to have the channel in the ocean dug; while animal farmers lamented the scarcity of breeding animals. According to another farmer, some farmers were asking as much as $200,000 for a breeding ram.
Explaining that Government has been trying to assist all farmers, the Agriculture Minister pointed to the flood relief money given to farmers last year, and said all sectors of farmers had benefitted therefrom.
“Most of the persons who were deserving received, whether it is cash crop, livestock or rice. Some rice farmers rented their land and they wanted the flood relief,” he decried.
Mustapha has said there are plans to further develop the MMA Scheme this year, to have 100,000 acres available. He pointed out that another 5,000 acres will be opened up for cattle, and pasture should be available for usage within three months.
Some of the farmers at the meeting
The livestock industry is developing, he said as he noted that 437 black belly sheep have already arrived from Barbados to improve the breeds here. He added that the programme has not been rolled out as yet, as the Government is waiting on the remainder to complete the allotment of 100 sheep. These sheep are expected to replace the Austrian and New Zealand lambs here.
“We can’t only depend on rice and cash crops, we have to develop the entire agriculture sector; but one cannot be at the expense of another one,” he declared.
Mustapha said improvements have been made in all sectors within the agriculture industry last year. “We have seen a decline in sugar, but I am hoping that with the reopening of the Rose Hall Estate and the systems that we have put in place, we will be able to surpass the first crop target. The target for the year is 60,000 tonnes.
I am hoping that we can surpass that,” he said.
Focusing on traditional crops, he pointed out that many farmers do not reap when the market is flooded and prices are low. These farmers prefer to allow their produce to rot in the fields. He assured that farmers can still get the prices they expect all year round.
“We now have a number of agro-processing facilities where you can take your produce and we will package it. Now the New Marketing Corporation (GMC) is looking to find markets, so if there are crash crop farmers who don’t have markets for their produce, let us know.
The GMC will find markets for your produce. We will have people come to your area to buy it from your farm gate. You can also take it to the agro-processing facility,” he explained.
Mustapha noted that both Barbados and Trinidad are demanding fresh produce from Guyana monthly. “All the fruits and vegetables that they can have, they want it in Barbados. There are a lot of avenues where your produce can be exported,” he explained.
The Minister also noted that strides are being made in the aquaculture industry. Shrimp production has significantly increased over the past year. Production moved from 10,000 kg to 80,000 kg per month.
Additionally, caged fishing has started for farmers in the hinterland.
“Any farmer who wants us to help them to get into aquaculture, we can do that. We have started the cage fish culture in the hinterland, and we are now helping those communities to start rearing fishes like tilapia and tambaqui. We have already procured the fingerlings,” Mustapha explained as he told farmers that more opportunities are looming in the agriculture sector.