Farmers in Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) were forced to destroy over 1000 acres of their rice at State Farm, which lies aback of Dartmouth on the Essequibo Coast.
This publication understands that this was done in their bid to prevent a complete annihilation of the crop, some of which were badly damaged from an infestation of bugs.
This tragedy comes at a time when the farmers are facing reduced prices for their paddy and increased production costs.
Over 10 farmers, who rented the farmlands from Caricom Rice Mills Limited, said due to heavy rainfall for the past three crops, the land had to be prepared under water. It was stated too that the little sunlight that prevailed was blamed for the bug infestation as this was the “ideal weather” pattern for the breeding of bugs.
The farmers said they are appealing to Government to assist them to return to the land as they are afraid of losing everything since many of them have loans with commercial banks and other lending institutions.
Most of the rice farmers are in the business for over 20 years and said they never experienced such challenges in the industry.
They claimed that a test was done on a plot to assess the damage, which reportedly found that more than 95 per cent of the grains were damaged. It was stated further that for the remaining portions, it will not be feasible for them to reap and transport their produce to the rice mills. Some of the farmers even complained of sleepless nights owing to their losses and debts.
“How can we explain to the banks; where are we going to find the money to repay the loans, how can we take care of our families, our children have to go to school,” were the cries of the farmers.
It was only last month that the Region Two farmers accused Government of “turning a blind eye” on the industry, when they were engaged by Anna Regina Deputy Mayor Darshan Persaud.
They claimed that the current Administration was not doing enough for rice farmers, saying this would have a great impact on one of the main sources of food and foreign currency earner to the country. Following the recent destruction of the crop, the farmers say they are desperately seeking an intervention.
Persaud told this publication that the complaints of farmers extend to accusations that millers were taking out 24 per cent of the earnings as dockage fees which translates to about $1200 per bag of paddy.
When looking at the expenses for cultivation, many farmers said they were not in a financial position to plant the next crop.
Farmers had also said that even though Regional Executive Officer Rupert Hopkinson was seen “boasting on Facebook about developments of parks and recreational facilities in the region”; there was much need for the servicing and maintenance of the regional machinery.
They had explained that this is vital in the maintenance of farm to market roads, trenches, dams and other key areas in the agricultural sector. Regional Chairman Devanand Ramdatt had noted that more than 80 per cent of the region’s 50,000 plus residents are directly or indirectly connected to the rice industry.