Police, rice farmers clash over drying of paddy, use of combines on Corentyne highway

Paddy being dried on the road

The Guyana Police Force (GPF) and the Rice Producers Association (RPA) are at loggerheads over combines being allowed to traverse the Corentyne Highway.

They are also clashing over whether it is allowed for paddy to be dried on the roadways.

Over the years, combines have been traversing the roadway while several sections are being used to dry paddy, but these actions have not been approved by the Force.

Police Regional Commander Linden Isles only recently stated that no permission has been given to the rice farmers for their combines to traverse the Corentyne Highway but the President of the Rice Producers Association (RPA) claims that the police have given the greenlight.

The drying of paddy on the Corentyne Highway during harvest season is an age-old problem in Region Six but the police have put their foot down on such activities, citing the danger such activities pose to road users.

In addition, there has been an increase of unregistered grain carts traversing the roadway.

President of the Rice Producers Association, Leaka Rambrich in a post on social media claimed that the Officer of Traffic in Region Six has given approval for the use of combines on the county’s roadways.

“I had a discussion with Mr Williams and I asked for some consideration be given to farmers during the harvesting period of them to use the road and he agreed with me and as such instructions was handed down…‘Combine can drive on the road early and late in the day…grain carts permitted without paperwork must carry back reflector…Paddy can be dried on the roads’ shoulders,” the post stated.

Meanwhile, in an invited comment on the recent spat, Officer in Charge of Traffic, Timothy Williams said that he had never instructed anyone to break the law.

“How can I tell someone to break the law? I have never told anyone to use the road for combines,” Williams told this publication.

He also denied granting any permission for persons to dry paddy on the road, saying that he does not have the authority to give such permission.

Williams posited that he was made aware of the social media post and will be addressing the issue shortly.

On the other hand, the RPA’s President said he was promised by a Government Minister that permission will be granted to the rice farmers and this he communicated to Williams.

While the drying of paddy on the country’s roads is an illegal practice, many on the Corentyne also place objects along the roadside to prevent vehicles from getting close to the paddy.

In light of this issue, rice millers have since offered the farmers to dry their paddy at their facilities at no cost but many farmers are comfortable putting the produce on the Corentyne Highway and more so, in front of their homes, to dry.

Additionally, the state-of-the-art seed paddy drying facility at Number 56 Village, Corentyne, is being underused as farmers opt to have their paddy dry on the roadways.

With respect to the grain carts, the Guyana Revenue Authority has in the past indicated that the carts must be licensed.

During last year, Williams had reported to this publication that several rice farmers were placed before the courts for having unlicensed grain carts on the road.

Under the traffic laws, combines are not allowed to drive on the roadway because of the damage they cause to the road surface. They are to be placed on low bed trucks and transported. [Story by: Andrew Carmichael]