Agriculture Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy explained that in the year 2000, the cash flow between millers and farmers was $8billion and it is now $46 billion. He explained that meeting the huge increase in cash flow is challenging to millers and thus the Government assists.
He further said there is talk about a revolving fund of a couple hundred million dollars and noted that millers and banks have not been able to meet the $46 billion. He cited 2010 as the year where there was a similar problem.
The Minister said it is no secret that Agriculture banks are very skeptical about lending large amounts of money because of the high risk factor. He stated that the Government, at various times make available between $2 to 5 billion to bridge the gap to allow farmers to be paid during crops, though payment may not be very timely.
He also admitted that that rice farmers are not being paid in a timely manner.
“We concede that farmers are not being paid on a timely basis. Part of the problem is the phenomenal increase in cash flow because whilst farmers harvest twice per year and expect their payment during that period, the millers sell over 12 months so they receive their payment over that same period, so therefore the cash flow becomes a problem,” the Minister explained.
Minister noted that only 3 to 4% of farmers are yet to receive payment and vowed that the government intends to ensure all are paid. Of the approximately $22 billion paid to farmers by millers at various points during this year, over $4billion came from the Government which in turn rotates payments received to continue paying farmers.
“I have had meetings with the banks asking that they invest their money with the millers and the banks have expressed fear that they have already invested money, when you are dealing with 300,000 tons of rice for the year versus 600,000 tones, the accommodation of storage and drying of paddy has to be increased, and the millers have invested in this increase, thus they already have significant loans at the bank,” Ramsammy said while making clear that he is not justifying the millers.
The outstanding payment to rice farmers lead to a number of violent protests on the Essequibo coast that saw several farmers being charged and placed before the court.
One of the Alliance for Change’s Councilor’s Nath Ram was accused of leading the farmers to protest violently and they were even accused of assaulting the police. The farmers however, told the media that they were the victims of police abuse and believed that demonstrating in the manner they did was the only way to get the Government’s attention.
[Extracted and modified from GINA]