Rice farmers from Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) have once again expressed their disapproval over the increases in land rental rates by the Mahaica, Mahaicony Abary/Agriculture Development Authority (MMA/ADA), which were announced earlier this year.
On Wednesday, a group of irate farmers gathered outside the Agriculture Ministry where they vented frustrations over the 2017 hikes. The Agriculture Ministry announced the increase of land rent from $3500 to $15,000 per acre, which represented a 600 per cent increase and land rates from $1000 to $7000. MMA had stated that the fee is implemented so that it can take care of drainage and irrigation.
The farmers however clearly stated that they cannot afford the increases, highlighting that the future of their offspring is in jeopardy.
“From $1000 an acre we ah pay to over $7000 an acre, is better de Government take back de land and plant um heself; if you can’t plant to survive, you got to make de jail lil bit mo big and abbe ah get mine in de jail… wha de lil child dem gone do when they grow, crime escalate high and higher,” a protester noted. He further vented that these increases are coupled with a rising cost of living.
Meanwhile, a farmer from Bush Lot, West Coast Berbice (WCB), expressed similar concerns. He, along with other farmers, noted that Agriculture Minister Noel Holder has repeatedly ignored their calls for dialogue.
The WCB farmer also decried the reduced earnings farmers have been receiving for their paddy. “We [are] getting a very hard time with the MMA and Minister for Agriculture. In de MMA scheme you cannot get more than 25-30 bags of paddy,” the WCB farmer expressed.The farmers told the press that while they are receiving $1300 for a bag of paddy, it was noted that manure amounts to $1000 per bag.
“They recommend that you got to throw three doses [but] where you gone find this money from,” the WCB farmer pondered.
“This Minister not realise what going on with the farmers,” he added.
Moments after their demonstration wrapped up, the protesters took their cries to Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo at his Church Street office. It was explained that the farmers condemned the “huge increases” in land rent, drainage and irrigation rates, lease fees and Value Added Tax (VAT) on agricultural inputs, equipment and machinery.
In a press statement from the Office of the Opposition Leader on Wednesday, it was noted that during the meeting with the farmers and input suppliers, Jagdeo outlined a clear vision “to off-set the challenges confronting farmers and the agricultural sector”.
The statement noted that Government has to curtail its high-handed approach in dealing with farmers whose concerns are genuine and legitimate. “The Opposition Leader has committed to reversing all the hardship measures imposed by the coalition Government once the PPP/C returns to office in the near future,” the statement said.