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The Government of Guyana has committed to investing in research and development programmes to aid in the advancement of the country’s rice sector, Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha said.
In his address to stakeholders at the official release of the GRDB 16 rice variety for cultivation on Saturday, the Minister said, “For us to survive in this world we have to keep up to date with science and technology and our administration will continue to spend in this area so that we can have them work to develop new varieties. Research plays a pivotal role in the development of any industry.”
The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) Research Station, the Minister said, is on a continuous quest for new technologies to boost productivity, which will increase the industry’s sustainability and competitiveness.
“Guyana has made tremendous progress in research. The GRDB has released 15 varieties from 1997 to 2018, [which] has led to a significant increase to national productivity over the years,” Minister Mustapha said.
The GRDB spends approximately $200 million per year to advance its breeding programme, while an estimated cost of more than $300 million is invested in developing one rice variety. Significant investments will continue to be made in the sector over the next five years.
“In many instances, we operate in less than ideal conditions; however, we will continue to develop, drought, flood and salt-tolerant varieties, and provide the necessary technical support to ensure our farmers are prepared to meet the challenge,” he emphasised.
Meanwhile, GRDB Chief Scientist, Dr. Mahendra Persaud, said productivity had grown tremendously over recent years, a trend he wants to continue. Dr. Persaud said though he continues to work on developing new varieties and other projects, there have been a number of challenges.
“The pest and disease complex is becoming more aggressive. Science and technology across the world are advancing at a fast rate. Climate change is posing serious forces on the breeding programme and our research at large. Many things that we have not thought of previously, we have to take into consideration at this time,” he said.
Further, the Chief Scientist said the industry needs to attain higher yields with all the quality traits that the export system demands.
“We have to be able to deliver technology that is relevant to farmers, our entire breeding programme is by and large, very conventional,” he said.
Dr Persaud is confident that with the Agriculture Minister’s support, the research team can achieve its goals.