Amid protest action by farmers appalled by the gargantuan hike in lease fees and other charges for land in the Mahaica/Mahaicony/Abary-Agriculture Development Authority (MMA/ADA), the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) will be moving to lay a motion in Parliament to reverse the increases.
Rice farmers in the project area are now being commanded to pay $15,000 per acre, a major increase from $3500 just last year for land rent and drainage and irrigation charges. Cattle and other crop farmers are now forced to pay $3900, a more than 100 per cent increase from the previous fee.
The Guyana Rice Producers Association (RPA) and the Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) Administration have indicated their solidarity with the farmers and condemned the more than 600 per cent increase. Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, during his recent press conference, also condemned the increases imposed on the farming population. He pointed out that farming is the main economic activity in the Region and was at a loss to understand why Government would want to put additional burdens on a segment of the population that has no alternative for earning a livelihood other than depending on agriculture.
On Tuesday, farmers protested outside the MMA/ADA office in Region Five. The more than 100 protesters held placards expressing their disapproval over the unilateral way the decision was made.
The representative body highlighted the fact that there were no consultations with the farmers prior to imposing the new fee “draconian” structure.
The MMA/ADA later reneged on a promise to meet with the RPA on the increases, prompting more outrage.
“The RPA is calling on all farmers to resist this draconian increase and show solidarity with all as we join in the call for the reversal of this decision which was taken without any consultation with farmers, their association or any other stakeholders,” the RPA urged.
The MMA/ADA and farmers have been at loggerheads since 2015 when Government moved to cancel the leases for several farmers. This resulted in a group of West Coast Berbice rice farmers filing a lawsuit against Government. After months of hearings, former Chief Justice Ian Chang in February 2016 quashed the cancellation of the leases in favour of the farmers.