Corn and soybeans are among the “big ticket” commodities imported into CARICOM. They are the major energy and protein sources respectively used in the manufacture of poultry and other animal feed. As the Region moves towards reducing its burgeoning USD 6 billion food import bill, corn and soybean are being targeted for import substitution. At the opening of the Agri Investment Forum in Guyana, on May 19, President of Guyana Irfaan Ali announced that his Government is aiming to move its current production of corn and soybean from 4,300MT to 35,000 MT by 2025.
Executive Director, Ansari Hosein notes that “CARDI has a long history of working with both commodities and is well positioned to produce and supply quality seeds and offer technical support to stakeholders to develop the value chains of corn and soybean.” Belize is the center of CARDI’s work and over the years the Institute has also developed and strengthened its capacity to conduct seed analysis for all grains bound for the export market.
For the 2020/2021 season CARDI produced over 65,000 kg of soybean grain and 180,000 kg of corn grain. “At present the demand for corn and soybean seed from CARDI is between 2,300 kg to 4,500 kg annually, however the Unit does have the capacity to increase its output as needed” notes CARDI Representative in Belize, Omaira Avila Rostant.
The CARDI YC001 corn is a yellow, open pollinated variety. It is a popular choice among farmers because of its good yields and drought tolerant characteristics. The CARDI YC001 is a suitable substitute for local varieties cultivated by small farmers. On average it matures in 110 days and yields are approximately 3,700 kg/ha under optimal conditions.
Currently CARDI produces 2 non genetically modified (GMO) soybean varieties the, CARDI S-88, 3296. These varieties are desired by farmers as they show drought tolerance and are suitable for mechanical harvesting. Both varieties are not easily lodged, their pods have high clearance from the ground and take a long time from maturity to pod shattering. On average they mature between 103-120 days and yields are between 1,440 kg/ha and 2,200 kg/ha.
Evaluation trials are ongoing for both corn and soybean in Belize so that new high yielding, disease-resistant varieties can be made available to farmers.
As the Region charts its course towards reducing its food dependency investing in corn and soybean production are ‘low hanging fruits’ that can contribute significantly to reducing the food import bill as well as support the development of several agro based industries.