[www.inewsguyana.com] – Minister of Agriculture Dr. Leslie Ramsammy has stated that during the past week, there were two meetings which resulted in an amicable agreement between millers and farmers with respect to payment for paddy.
As such, the Minister was astonished by the recent violent protest action on Friday night by farmers in Essequibo. This protest he said was motivated by political elements, pointing to Naith Ram, an Alliance for Change (AFC) councillor who led the protest.
The Minister urged the farmers to continue dialogue as he expressed the hope that much of the debt would be reduced soon.
During the protest, police was forced to use teargas on the crowd that hurled bottles and other missiles at the ranks, and burnt tyres on the main road at Land of Plenty, Essequibo Coast.
At least 19 persons, who were allegedly involved in the protest are in police custody as an assessment of the situation continues, Police Commissioner (ag) Seelall Persaud has stated. A statement from the Guyana Police Force stated that two tractors, four trailers, two motor cars and two motor cycles that were among the vehicles used to block the roadway have been seized during an operation to clear the area.
Minister Ramsammy pointed out that in the past millers owed payment to farmers for more than a year, but through working with them, by the beginning of 2014 all payments for 2013 had been paid off.
For the first crop in 2014, over 400,000 tonnes of rice was produced and sold to the millers at a cost of $23.3B. Of this amount, $19.9B was paid by the end of last week.
The Minister explained that there is constant work to ensure that millers pay farmers 100% for each crop before the next crop comes in. Millers are being urged to comply with the Rice Millers Act which states that within 42 days farmers must have their payment.
The Agriculture Minister urged farmers that if they wanted to protest, then they should do so peacefully and not by blocking roads and hindering others from going about their business.
He also urged rice millers to make timely payments to farmers, and farmers to make sure that a growing industry can move seamlessly forward as he pointed to the growth of the industry in terms of efficiency and the new rice yields which have boosted production.
[Extracted and modified from GINA]