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5 and 6

5 and 6

Attacks of rice blast in Region Three have been successfully quelled, and fears expressed by some farmers that it would spread throughout the whole area under rice cultivation have subsided. The blast disease is contagious and had seriously affected rice farming in Guyana in the past.According to Dharamkumar Seeraj, MP, General Secretary of the Rice Producers Association (RPA), the disease, which affected basically the ‘rustic’ variety sown by some farmers, has disappeared due to the use of a special fungicide recommended.“The other varieties of rice sown in the region were not affected, as these are resistant to the blast”, he reported.The damage done was minimal, as only a few farmers had cultivated that particular variety. And this would not have any serious effect on overall production in terms of the estimated yield to be harvested from the current rice crop.Rice production plays an important role in the economy of Guyana, rice being the staple diet and a main source of foreign exchange earning. The livelihood of thousands of Guyanese is dependent on rice production also.In the main rice producing areas in Guyana, namely Regions 2, 3, 5 and 6, a combined total of seventy-five thousand acres is presently under cultivation.Meanwhile, Seeraj reiterated the RPA’s position on the suggested Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union (EU) and Cariforum as it impacts on the industry directly.He said that, whilst the RPA recognizes the need for Guyana to sign such an agreement, it would not support Guyana’s signing the EPA in its present form.He added that the RPA will support an agreement that is World Trade Organisation (WTO)-compatible, but this is not evident in the present proposed document.“We have to ensure that the gains and benefits that were achieved by the Cotonou Agreement are protected.”?Under the Cotonou Agreement, Guyana would enjoy duty free and quota free rice exports to the EU in 2010. At present, Guyana has a quota arrangement in its supply of rice to the EU, which must be satisfied so that the country can benefit from preferential prices for the product.“A new agreement that erases the benefits of the Cotonou Agreement will have obvious disadvantages for the rice industry,” Seeraj explained.

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