March 27, 2010 / 6:58 PM / 9 years ago

Muslims pray for rain in drought-hit Guyana

GEORGETOWN (Reuters) - Muslims across Guyana prayed for rain on Saturday to end a drought that has battered the tiny South American nation’s rice and sugar exports and caused food shortages in indigenous communities.

The government of the former British colony of about 750,000 people is struggling to irrigate farmland, with water at storage points reaching dangerously low levels.

The Central Islamic Organization of Guyana (CIOG), which represents Muslims in 145 mosques across the multiethnic nation, organized a day of prayers for rain.

“This activity is consistent with the Sunnah of the Prophet Mohammad beseeching the Creator to cause the rain to descend and alleviate sufferings,” said one CIOG leader, Shaykh Moeenul.

Muslims make up about 7 percent of Guyana’s population, with Hindus at 28 percent and Christians making up most of the rest across various denominations.

Guyana is one of several countries in the region, including neighboring Venezuela, that have been parched by drought since the end of last year.

“The Amerindian communities are really badly hit,” President Bharrat Jagdeo said on Friday of the indigenous people who make up nearly a 10th of Guyana’s population. “We have been supplying food to some communities but I need to increase that significantly.”

The state-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation said this week that cane growth and development had been affected at five of its eight estates. Replanting had to be cut back on four estates, it said.

Guyana Sugar said the full impact on sugar production would not be known until the end of the second crop of 2010.

Export earnings from sugar fell 10.2 percent in 2009 to $119.8 million from a year earlier and rice export earnings fell 3.3 percent to $114.1 million.

Reporting by Neil Marks; Editing by John O'Callaghan

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