Taiwanese agronomist predicts high rice yield in CRR

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mr Ming Ching Cheng, an agronomist and adviser in rice breeding and cultivation attached to the Taiwanese Technical Mission at the Sapu Agricultural Research Station in the Central River Region, has predicted a possible increase in rice yield in CRR, come 2009. Mr Cheng, before coming to The Gambia in December 2006, had been working as an adviser in rice breeding and cultivation in one of seven Taiwanese agricultural extension stations, the Huoalian, for over thirty solid years.

In an interview with Mr Cheng, he left no stone unturned in delving into the Taiwanese government’s close ties with the government of The Gambia in ensuring efficient rice production in the country. He confidently said that in May, 2009, rice yield in both Northern CRR and Southern CRR will rise as high as 5, 600 tons. Mr Cheng told this reporter that there were 35 hectares of tidal irrigation rice fields in CRR North and 660 hectares in CRR South. Each hectare of these, he said, produces almost 5.6 tons of rice.  Cheng asserted that if tidal irrigation rice fields are managed well, they will be more productive.  He said although there are over 18000 hectares of upland rice fields, these produce the least yield, with 1.2 ton each.

This he attributed to the lack of appropriate water and fertiliser management. This, he noted, is unlike the tidal irrigation rice fields where technical know-how is essential and is indeed usually given to the rice growers. 

Mr Cheng said that if rice growers adhere to their technical advice, more rice yield could be expected in every harvest. He took the opportunity to advise rice growers to adhere to the requirements of the appropriate calendar of tilling, seedling and transplanting of the seedlings; which is early February. This would mean that by May, every one would have harvested their rice. 

Failure to do this, the Taiwanese agronomist argued, would mean harvesting during the rainy season, something that might have disastrous consequences.

Mr Cheng sought to reiterate the commitment of the Taiwan’s International Cooperation and Development Fund (ICDF) in The Gambia’s food sustenance drive, saying that each year it pledges a budget of 200, 000 US Dollars for every 50-hectare land development in the tidal irrigation system. He expressed optimism of the imminence of the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Department of State for Agriculture (DOSA), Action Aid The Gambia, and the Taiwanese Technical Mission, which aims to help rice growers with horse and donkey carts, training programs in rice production and literary courses.

Cheng posited that for The Gambia to be totally food self-sufficient, there is the ardent need for attitudinal change among the people, echoing the Gambian leader’s long standing call.  He said that Gambians should not only rely on the Taiwanese, but should act as well, stating that if business partners should emulate President Jammeh, then in a few years to come we will not only be food self-sufficient, but can export rice to other African states. He further stressed that any business partner who wants to emulate the president will be assisted technically by the mission "as far as rice production is concerned". Mr Cheng concluded that by May 2009, everyone might be able to buy rice from rice growers in CRR at a very reasonable price.

Author: by Momodou Asmaoh Jallow