Contracts for the supply of fertilizers to rice farmers under the government’s $1B assistance programme will be awarded before the week is out says Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha.
Once this process is completed, the official, according to a missive from his ministry, said he is hopeful that the current acreage sown can move from 168,000 to 200,000 by the end of the month.
Minister Mustapha provided the foregoing update following a meeting on Monday with officials from the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), and members of the Rice Farmers’ Fertilizer Assistance Registration and Verification Committee.
They met to discuss the progress made on government’s fertilizer assistance programme which was announced last May by President, Dr. Irfaan Ali. During those talks, focus was placed on the lists of rice farmers per region who were eligible for assistance.
While going through the lists submitted by the committee for acres sown to date, Minister Mustapha disclosed that Region Two had recorded some 31,884 acres sown, Region Three had 14,370 acres sown, Region Four had 7,440 acres sown, Region Five recorded 58,062 acres sown, and Region Six had some 57,270 acres sown.
Referencing the issues faced during the flood relief exercise, Minister Mustapha urged the committee members to ensure the lists were transparent and accurately reflected the activities in the various regions.
Guyana Standard understands that farmers raised concerns about the strength of the fertilizer currently on the market, noting that they are now forced to use 50% more on their crops. Minister Mustapha noted the issues raised and pledged to have the ministry’s Pesticide and Toxic Chemicals Control Board (PTCCB) conduct tests on those inputs to ensure they meet the standard required for their intended purposes.
President Ali had announced that the government will be purchasing and distributing, free of cost, $1 billion in fertilizers to both cash crop and rice farmers countrywide as a means of absorbing the rising global costs for the commodity and to prevent the costs from being passed on to consumers at the market.
The $1 billion will be drawn from the $5 billion the government had set aside in the 2022 national budget to implement measures to ease the cost of living for citizens, which is caused by the external economic shocks from the COVID-19 pandemic and the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Of the $1 billion announced, $900 million will go towards the procurement of fertilizer for the rice industry, while the remaining $100 million will be given to persons cultivating cash crops.