High fertiliser prices: Agri Ministry intervenes as rice farmers protest

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Some rice farmers during the protest

Today Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha hosted a meeting with rice farmers from the Essequibo Coast, Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam), to address concerns over the high prices of fertilizers in the region.

The farmers complained that, due to the cost of the fertilizers, they were finding it hard to move forward with their cultivation and called on the government to intervene in the matter.

After listening to their concerns, Minister Mustapha told farmers that after learning of the high cost of fertilizer, he contacted one of the main suppliers in the region and was able to influence him to lower the cost by 10% and 18%.

“When I heard about the cost of the fertilizer immediately, I engaged the supplier. With our intervention, the supplier agreed to bring down the cost of the fertilizer. The urea was reduced from $9,500 to $8,500 per bag and the TSP from $10,000 to $8,200 per bag, and we are going beyond that. Last week the President announced that we are in discussion with our bilateral partners to see how we can collaborate to address these cost increases. This may be burdensome but this is a global issue and we need farmers to recognize that,” Minister Mustapha said.

Further, Minister Mustapha explained that due to a global shortage of natural gas, many industries were affected which has resulted in increases in many commodities across the world.

“We have to look at the reasons for the increase in prices. We are seeing an increase in the cost of natural gas, which is a critical component when producing fertilizers. Globally, the cost of fertilizers has increased tremendously. In some parts of the US, the costs have doubled and tripled. Even in China, a powerhouse producer, many industries were closed because of the pandemic which resulted in a shortage of natural gas. That is why it is important for us to build that pipeline so that we can be in a position to produce our own natural gas,” the minister said.

During a media briefing last Thursday, His Excellency, President Irfaan Ali noted that, at the international level, his Government does not intend to sit down and wait for the situation to correct itself. Referencing the rising cost of fertilizers, the President said that over the last four weeks, discussions were held with many bilateral partners to remedy this.

The Head of State also said that the increase in the cost of production and logistics have driven prices up across the world.

“We are doing this so that the farmers, the sugar industry, the rice producers—they can all benefit. Because if we don’t bring down the cost, we know too that the cost of rice will increase.”

President Ali said the current circumstances are threatened by the forecast that existing shortages and price increase will continue well into 2022.
According to the Head of State, an assessment of what is happening in major economies like China shows that they are experiencing the fastest growth in increased prices since the 1990s. In the United States of America, the consumer prices index for October showed prices rose 6.2 percent over the last twelve months. According to President Ali, it is the highest in the last three decades.

After receiving insight into the root of the increases, farmers expressed their satisfaction with the government’s efforts to bring down the cost of fertilizers so far and said that they look forward to more interventions that could result in further reductions.