As much as 1,300 acres of millet are currently under cultivation at the Tacama Mega Farm on the Berbice River in Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice), ahead of plans for the May/June season this year to plant huge corn and soya crops at the location.
On Tuesday, President Dr Irfaan Ali, who is now the Chair of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), shared on his social media page that 1,300 acres of millet are currently being cultivated at Tacama. The cultivation of millet is an important part of the Government’s plan to achieve food security and slash the Caricom food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025.
Since the millet was planted late last year, it is expected that harvesting would occur well within the first quarter of 2024.
Speaking to this publication, David Fernandes, Assistant Managing Director of Bounty Farm, explained why millet, and not corn and soya, was planted at this time.
“Now, it takes about 60 days to harvest it. Because it’s a short crop, it doesn’t need much rain; that’s why we couldn’t plant soya bean, we had to plant something a little more resilient, that didn’t need as much water,” he said.
“Remember, we ended up with this El Nino situation, where we had probably the driest Christmas in a long time. So, we’re trying to enhance the soil, and at the same time harvest it and use it in the feed as a substitute for either corn or rice,” Fernandes further explained.
While neither corn nor soya could be planted late last year, Fernandes assured that corn and soya will eventually be planted. And further, he explained that there are intentions for the current crop of millet when it is harvested.
“We will harvest the grain when it is ready and use it in stockfeed. We’re using it as a ground cover, as a fertilizer bank to stop soil erosion. Because remember, we would have a lot of land prepared for the big crop we’re planting in May/June of this year,” he explained.
The year 2023 was declared the International Year of Millets by the United Nations General Assembly. President Ali had announced last year that, with technical assistance from India, Guyana would be conducting test trials of millet in at least three regions.
India is a global leader in the production of millets, and Guyana and India have committed to collaborate on millet production. The South Asian state is expected to provide technical support and guidance during production.
Millets are a highly varied group of small seeds and cereal crops. They are a powerhouse of nutrients: rich in proteins, vitamins, minerals and fibres. Based on the required environmental conditions for millet germination, Guyana is considered an ideal zone for the growth and development of the seed. Importantly, millet production would open up additional avenues for economic advancement, providing a new market for export.
Corn and soya bean are also relatively new crops for Guyana, with cultivation having started only in 2021. President Ali has already announced that, in another three years, the industry will see over US$40 million in investments that will help catapult the country into self-sufficiency and aid in realising the Region’s objective of reducing its food import bill by 25% by 2025.
The Government has played a crucial role in supporting the growth of the corn and soya bean industry, with a commitment of over $1.2 billion to infrastructural development in the Tacama area.
In 2022, the Government improved access to the area by constructing 40 kilometres of road, with the remaining seven kilometres scheduled to be completed this year. Additionally, the Government invested in a drying and storage facility for corn and soya bean, the first such facility in the country.
It has previously been reported that plans are afoot to start cultivating corn and soya bean in Moco Moco Village, North Rupununi. The Ministry of Agriculture has also been assessing the capacity in other regions, with the aim of taking the project there in the future.Guyana has aspirations of being a net exporter of corn and soya by 2025. In the feed industry, Guyana imports close to US$30 million in products annually.
The farmlands at Tacama is being cultivated by a consortium that includes Guyana Stockfeed Limited, Edun Farms and Bounty Farm Limited. Other investors are Royal Chicken, SBM Wood, Dubulay Ranch, and the Brazilian-owned N F Agriculture.