Often referred to as the breadbasket of the Caribbean, Guyana is one of the world’s primary producers of staple crops like sugar and rice. The future of farming in Guyana is bright with many opportunities for people who want to get involved with the industry. Starting a new farm can prove daunting, especially with a crop like rice, which can be quite tricky to grow.
Luckily, Guyanese entrepreneurs have support from GBTI, which is one of the nation’s leading provider of farming loans with a specific product meant for growing rice. This loan can be secured for purchasing land, equipment, fertilizers, and more. Some key tips to keep in mind when it comes to launching a rice operation include:
1. Choose the right land.
Rice can be grown almost anywhere, but it will thrive in certain conditions more than others. Ideally, rice should be planted in a swampy or waterlogged area to get the largest yield. These areas will reduce the need for an irrigation system, which can add a lot of expense to the process of setting up a farm.
Look for fertile land that has a lot of water retention. The type of soil also matters as you look for the right plot of land. Clay-heavy soil is widely considered the best for growing rice, since it helps to retain water and organic matter that promote fast rice growth. Prior to planting, you will need to weed and cut down grasses. Also, the ground need to be level and then tilled to make it ready for planting.
2. Plant the right seeds at the right time.
One of the important things to keep in mind when it comes to farming is that the quality you put in is the quality you get out. In other words, you need to invest in high-quality seeds. While these seeds are more expensive, they can increase yield by up to 20 percent and reduce replanting rates. Also, great seeds promote uniformity and are more resistant to disease. Look for a double variety with up to 80 percent germination tendency as you buy seed.
Next, think about when you should be planting the seed. Some farmers will spread seed, which is time efficient, while others will transplant rice because it maximizes the harvest. If you plant seeds directly, wait until the rainy season is only a few days away. If you transplant, you will need to wait until the land is heavily flooded after the first or second rainfall.
3. Figure out a harvesting strategy.
For the most part, rice does not take a lot of time to mature. In general, rice is ready for harvest between three and five months after planting, although some varieties may take much longer. Be sure to pay attention to the seeds that you purchase. Harvesting is the process of collecting the mature crops so that they can be processed for sale. Before you harvest, you need to have the flooded water in the farm mostly drained but not completely to make it as easy as possible to collect the crop.
There are two main strategies for harvesting. You can use a harvesting machine, which minimizes time but can be costly depending on whether you purchase or rent the equipment. Availability may also be an issue. The other option is harvesting by hand using knives and sickles. You will need to hire labor to help, but it is often cheaper than using equipment.
4. Dry and mill the rice properly.
Once rice gets harvested, it needs time to dry. You should not underestimate the importance of this step. By giving the rice time to dry properly, it becomes safe for storage. Otherwise, the rice could rot and cost you the entire crop. Many rice farmers consider drying the most important step since it can ruin the entire harvest. The harvested grain should sit under the sun for at least 24 hours to dry and ideally longer.
The next step is to mill the rice to remove the husk and bran layers, which is what makes the grain edible. This process will depend in the variety of rice you grow, so pay close attention to the seeds that you buy. Typically, milling is done with commercial equipment to maximize the yield of rice. Many different processes exist, so do you research and understand what is involved, including the cost of using equipment.
5. Store the rice in a safe place.
Many farmers overlook how they will store the rice once it has been harvested. You need to know whether you will store the rice in paddy form and then mill prior to selling or save milled grain. The husk can help protect rice against insects, but it can be more costly to mill several times rather than once.
Often, farmers use storage rooms, sacs, or wood pallets to keep the rice. The decision depends on cost, space, and what is easily available. Make sure you think about how you will keep you rice safe from insects and rodents, as well as microorganisms. A clean, dry environment is important for minimizing growth of mold.