As rice farmers on the Essequibo Coast are experiencing continued difficulties, Member of Parliament (MP), Dharamkumar Seeraj used his time in the National Assembly during Thursday’s leg of the Budget 2019 debates to touch on the rice industry, which he posited is under threat as a result of failures on the part of the coalition Government.
Seedlings granted to the farmers from the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) are not germinating causing farmers to now have to re-prepare and replant their crops, he said.
Speaking on the ongoing troubles facing the farmers, Seeraj noted that just last season, the farmers already lost over $1B because of poor pest control which, in his opinion, should have been avoided.
According to Seeraj, the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) had established a specialized unit to deal with pest and disease control, a unit which was reportedly disbanded by the APNU/AFC Government in 2015.
“357,000 bags of paddy losses equivalent to $1B just because of a factor that could have been avoided in pest and disease control…in 2015 that specialized unit was disbanded and we were told that they works would be reassigned…that unit was created under the PPP with a purpose” Seeraj chastised.
Further, the MP revealed that coupled with the woes that the farmers are already facing, their machines and properties are also under threat, plights, he noted, that the Agriculture Minister is aware of, but to date has done nothing.
According to Seeraj, as if those issues were not enough, the farmers are now being charged excessive amount of monies to plant their crops.
“The cost of production is going up, $15,000 per acre Drainage and Irrigation charges them…they are being asked to produce more while cost keeps going up… In the purchase of fuel alone the farming section of the industry would have contributed more than $3B in taxes….they need to be given support so that they can produce and compete because we are underrated on a global scale…this Government is penalizing agriculture by means of increases..” Seeraj noted.
Touching on the international markets for rice which is also facing several setbacks, Seeraj reminded of the Panama rice rejection saga.
Some 20 containers of rice shipped to Panama under a Government to Government arrangement with Guyana was rejected.
According to reports, the containers of what was expected to be packaged white rice were rejected as a result of substandard quality.
It was understood that the Panamanian authorities were complaining that the samples sent were not in keeping with the contractual agreement with Guyana.
Seeraj questioned why did GRDB, a Government Agency, place the Panamanian market, one of the most lucrative, in jeopardy.
“The Government agency is the contracting party to Panama…they do inspections, issues certificates before customs could export, and yet some 30 containers had to come back because the rice was different from what was requested…how did they allow this to happen?” the MP questioned.
Added to those issues Government is reportedly also exporting materials to Mexico at a lower price. Further, he posited that the Malaysian Government is also seeking an agreement which is not being supported by the coalition.