RICE UNDER ASSAULT

1
396

Ignored by APNU /AFC Govt in 2016, Rice farmers face a dreary 2017  – Ramsammy

(Following is a commentary written by former Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsamy)

Rice production fell by more than 13% for 2016, the first negative growth since 2005 when the La Nina big flood impacted on rice. The Minister of Agriculture stated that rice production was about 600,000 tons; in fact it fell below 600,000, interrupting the annual record-breaking performance which started in 2008. Beginning in 2011, the rice industry recorded a new single crop record every crop for nine straight crops, in spite of some serious inclement weather. The first crop of 2015 was the largest single crop production in our history, at about 375,000 tons. The successive new records for a single crop for rice production was interrupted in the second 2015 rice crop, production falling to below 300,000 tons.

Former Minister of Health and Agriculture, Dr Leslie Ramsammy

There was also a 20% reduction in acreage under cultivation from about 93,000 to less than 71,000 hectares. Both 2016 crops have failed to reach 300,000 tons. The downward trajectory in rice production has forced APNU+AFC into silence. Unlike the end of 2015 when they boasted about rice production, their 2016 rice posture is a virtual silence.

In 2012, rice production topped 400,000 tons for the first time. In 2013, rice production exceeded 500,000 tons. In 2014 production reached 635,000 tons. After the first crop in 2015, production exceeded 375,000 and Guyana was above pace to attain the targeted 700,000 tons. The actual 675,000 tons in 2015 was another record, continuing the work of the PPP government. But, the second crop of 2015 was the smallest since 2011. Now in 2016, the downward trend started in the second crop of 2015 continues unabated. The weather in 2016 was more friendly for rice than the weather in 2014 and 2015. What then caused the downward trend in rice production? The Minister has an obligation to explain to the Guyanese people what happened.

The Minister of Agriculture boasted that they secured 35 destinations as market for Guyana’s rice. Let him inform the nation which one of these is entirely new and which one the government secured in 2016. All of the 35 destinations for Guyana’s rice in 2016 existed in 2014. It is true we sold more rice to Europe in 2016, but that market was there and we voluntarily reduced our export to Europe between 2009 and 2015 because we chose Venezuela as a more profitable export destination. We lost Venezuela by the end of 2015 and so we were forced in 2016 to send more rice to Europe, a lower-priced market. The Mexico market which we always supplied with a very small amount was claimed by PM Nagamootoo to be a new large market towards the end of 2015. He took personal responsibility and credit, but It never materialized in 2016 and there is no indication it will materialize in 2017. Even if it does, it will be a low-priced market. Nagamootoo has gone totally silent on this matter. The real catalyst for the downward trend in rice production is farmers are getting between $1,500 and $2,200 per bag for their paddy, far below the more than $3,000 they got up to the first crop of 2015 and a far cry from the $9,000 APNU+AFC promised farmers.

Incidentally, some of Guyana’s rice still end up informally in Venezuela. There is credible evidence that some rice supplied to Venezuela by a certain country comes from Guyana. There is also evidence, as the Minister admitted, that some millers are selling rice to Venezuela. It is a small amount, but the farmers do not benefit from the premium prices the PPP Government negotiated with Venezuela. It is reckless to abandon the premium prices in Venezuela only to see our rice ending up there anyways, without benefiting from the premium prices, simply because of the arrogance of APNU+AFC.

Blaming bad weather is a cop out. Rice farmers consistently cope with inclement weather. The weather in 2012, 2013 and 2014 were actually less friendly than it was in 2016. What was different in 2016 was farmers had minimal to no support for drainage and irrigation. The MMA was less responsive and the pumps that operated in several regions functioned below optimal capacity. Often there was not enough fuel and just as often the pumps were down, in need of maintenance and repairs. Non-support to cope with drainage and irrigation problems, low paddy prices, late payments, high fertilizer prices and paddy bug infestations have combined to cause reduced acreage under cultivation and lower production.

Now the government, in the absence of any plan for the closed sugar cane fields, have promised to get involved with rice production, just as they did in the 1980s. They want to cultivate hundreds of acres of rice in Wales and have paid huge amounts of consultancy fees to their friends to help them get rice production off the ground at Wales. After misinforming people that rice cultivation is already in place at Wales and the first crop should be reaped in March 2017, we now have been informed by GUYSUCO that, in fact, no rice is presently under cultivation. We have also been told that hundreds of acres will be cultivated at Skeldon. Inquiring minds want to know why would the government compete with farmers. Rice has always been a purely private sector activity. With government as a competitor, they will coerced millers into being preferred sellers of paddy, creating further hardships for farmers and millers.

In short, we end 2016 with rice farmers under assault, not just ignored, but penalized in 2016. APNU+AFC is clueless when it comes to rice and have foolishly removed all measures farmers benefited from. With no support for early payment, low paddy prices, non-support for affordable fertilizers, no support for drainage and irrigation, and removal of taxes on machinery and fuel and increased VAT on electricity and water, rice farmers confront a bleak and dreary 2017. I expect further reduction in rice production in 2017.

1 COMMENT

  1. Dear editor ,
    not often do I agree with Dr.Ramsammy . However I do agree with him on the heading of the article .
    I would like to respectfully ask Dr.Ramsammy to start doing the right thing and to constructively contribute to the well being of the rice farmers which are in majority supporters of his party .

    I want to remind the good doctor about the millers meeting he had October 2014 when he was minister and asked the large crowd of millers to take some of the “rap” for the low paddy prices ; the decline started under his watch .
    When the undersigned stated that to solve the problem we must first look at what went wrong with the Venezuela deal and I questioned the corruption ; Dr.Ramsammy choose to try to evict me out of the peoples board room of the ministry of Agriculture .
    Dr.Ramsammy was so aggravated that he stood up and charged toward me however while waiting for him he stopped and exhaled for security ; I peacefully left only to read in the cronicle that I trow papers in the minister face which was obviously a blatant lie .
    Facts :
    The Venezuela deal contrary to what the ex minister states was lost under his watch because of massive fraud , manipulation ,corruption etc .
    This deal was brought to the table by the undersigned ; Guyana was rescued by Venezuela when the oil prices skyrocketed and when the then Minister Robert Persaud MBA ,Min.Of Agri before Dr.R.,asked for help. The undersigned brought to the table the Venezuela deal now known as the “Rice of Oil” deal and it was President Jagdeo who finalized it excellently by motivating President Chavez however the the GRDB management saw this as a opportunity to enrich themselves and the party friends resulting in hoteliers etc overnight becoming rich paddy exporters .

    I am patiently waiting for the forensic audit report to be finalized and published and if the 8 billion dollar fraud is not proven I will personally apologize for having said so .
    Venezuela told the government of Guyana at that time that they would reduce the quantities in favor of Suriname .

    I campaigned for this government however I am indeed in total shock seeing the total disregard for the rice farmers and the lies being peddled by the ministry of agriculture and I also refer to what Dr.Ramsammy said about rice production at Wales being correct in my opinion and knowledge .

    In 1988/89 Rice was privatized and did extremely well ; Sugar contrary to the IMF agreement was not privatized and the result of it is more than clear costing taxpayers billions .
    Indeed as Dr.Ramsammy said Guysuco was planting rice in 1989 and also built a state of the art rice mill at Blairmont and failed ; why would it now work ?

    Governments should govern and let the private sector run business .

    Sadly the present president of the good life for all is either misled or does not know what he is talking about as he vehemently claims that Rice is private sector ; little does he know that the private sector cannot sign any contract without GRDB approval and that the GRDB is now a club of ” the lame are guiding the blind” let alone that it is illegally appointed ; just read the articles of GRDB !!
    What makes it worse is also that there are attempts of deals being made to again ripoff the farmers ; see court case GREMA vs GRDB concerning the Jaimaica “monopoly” which deal in the meantime failed .

    GRDB was created as a platform to advice the government on the way forward and not to terrorize the industry .

    Most laughable is that the minister appointed 15 members while only 13 are allowed and not to forget that Mr.Jinnah Rahman was evicted as well from the GRDB board.
    The board is just like previous governments hand picked and Dr.Ramsammy ought to know that the RPA , a arm of the PPP, is well represented by its president who is now a rice millers and that the millers cartel is still in control of the GRDB or better said can control the board .
    It is my sincere opinion that Mr.Nagamooto who promised the rice farmers wealth and prosperity now is nowhere to be seen and the propaganda machine of Dr.Ramsammy who gave crony millers billions of dollars just a few days before the election and screaming that Doerga is a mad man ; Market is no problem and money /Price is no problem is not delivering as there is nothing preventing Dr.Ramsammy not to deliver on that promise .
    It was Doerga who questioned : The government is getting 9000 dollars for a bag of paddy why are they giving the farmers 3000 and not 6000 .
    Stop misleading the public and the farmers that the coalition said they would buy paddy at 9000 as not a single sane farmer would have believed that .

    However !! Please after setting the record straight let us ALL work together to find solutions to stop the continuation of the destructive policies of the ministry of Agriculture ; there are solutions ; we have successfully done it in the past .
    I will be the first to sit with anyone who wants to leave the past behind us and work on a successful future of the agriculture sector ; the backbone of the economy long term !
    May I also kindly ask all those including the minister of Agriculture to stop looking like uneducated poeple as there is not anymore a “world market price ” there is a Word Rice Index !!!

    1988 President Hoyte heard about rice the same we hear about sugar today : All the mills are scrap and there is no market !
    I answered : would people stop eating rice ? … and rice became the success story of the last 2 decades .
    I ask the same about sugar today in the face of all the closures in this hemisphere of sugar mills and the building resentment of the public of chemicals in beet sugar and corn syrup etc .
    We need real professionals to run sugar which can be definitely found in the private sector .
    We must be honest and I refer to the AFC who want to blame president Jagdeo for the mishap at Skeldon ; Jagdeo did the right thing and also to please the public opinion and the then opposition by hiring Tate and Lyle as experts to prevent the exact wrong choice of equipment .It is sad to now understand that Tate and Lyle is back on the seen .
    Skeldon is and was the right thing to do .

    Hope to have contributed to further thinking and contribution to a rapid solution before it is to late !

    Dr.Turhane Doerga Ph.D.

LEAVE A REPLY