Paddy bugs have led to the loss of almost 20% of the rice crop in Region Six so far this year and reports are that a similar loss has been experienced in Region Two and smaller amounts in Regions Three and Five. At least this is according to former Agriculture Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy.
According to Ramsammy, for Region Six alone this loss translates to 500,000 bags of paddy, equating to the loss of $1.4B in revenue for farmers.
“Overall, Guyanese rice farmers are estimated to lose about $5B this year, having already lost more than $5B in 2018. Most of these are poor farmers and it is unconscionable that the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) and the Ministry of Agriculture are largely missing in action,” Ramsammy opined.
According to him, it has been confirmed that rice production fell by 10% in the first half of 2019 and the major reason advanced is the devastation caused by the paddy bug infestation, mainly in Regions Two and Six.
Ramsammy revealed that in 2014, Guyana produced more than 637,000 tonnes of rice. In the first crop of 2015, production reached almost 400,000 tonnes, far ahead of the pace to meet the 2015 target of 700,000 tonnes. But Guyana failed to reach the 2015 target because of a significant drop in production for the second 2015 crop, he recalled.
“Guyana failed again in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and now it is highly unlikely Guyana will reach the 700,000 target in 2019. One of the major reasons for production missing the 700,000 target in 2017, 2018 and now in 2019 is the paddy bug infestation,” he reiterated.
He pointed to the fact that “this week, the GRDB finally sought to assure everyone that the paddy bug problem limiting rice production in the last two years, particularly in Regions Two and Six, is being seriously addressed.”
According to the GRDB, two experts in paddy bug control were in Guyana last week, under the auspices of FLAR, to assist farmers in controlling paddy bugs. Headquartered in Colombia, FLAR is a public-private partnership which has as its aim to improve the competitiveness and sustainability of rice production.
But even in spite of this move, the former Agriculture Minister noted that few farmers have confidence the GRDB is of any help in fighting paddy bugs. He added too that the Central Corentyne Chambers of Commerce (CCCC), for instance, called out the GRDB for its sloth and its lack of serious interest in the paddy bug problem.
“Like the farmers, the CCCC called on the GRDB to declare the paddy bug problem an emergency. While supporting this call, I believe the Ministry of Agriculture must lead the fight against the paddy bug emergency,” Ramsammy has posited.
But according to the former minister, “The paddy bugs are not new to Guyana, but it has emerged as a bigger problem in the last couple of years, seriously affecting production.” In fact he revealed that after meeting with the FLAR experts, farmers contend the recommendations made by the experts are things they are already doing.
However, he asserted that “some of the things are not possible without the direct intervention of GRDB, the Ministry of Agriculture and other government entities.”