As many of the challenges in the rice sector continue, a set of rice farmers in the Essequibo district on Wednesday met with Anna Regina Deputy Mayor, Darshan Persaud where they accused the coalition Government of “turning a blind eye” to the industry. They premised this belief on claims that the current Administration is not doing enough for rice, saying this would have a great impact on one of the main sources of food and foreign currency earner to the country.
The Deputy Mayor who is a member of the Opposition-led People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Town Council said the sector was given “a tremendous boost” when his party was in power. Persaud expressed that the present Government is “playing politics” by neglecting the sugar and rice industries in this country, causing thousands of Guyanese to suffer financial loss. He said too that many of the senior members of the farmers’ groups which advocated greatly for cause of colleagues were allegedly given key positions in the present Government.
The complaints the farmers made extended to accusations that millers are taking out 24 per cent of the earnings as dockage fees which translates to about $1200 per bag of paddy. When looking at the expenses for cultivation, many farmers say they are not in a financial position to plant the next crop.
Farmers said also that even though Regional Executive Officer Rupert Hopkinson was seen “boasting on Facebook about developments of parks and recreational facilities in the region”, there is much need for the servicing and maintenance of the regional machinery. They explained that this is vital in the maintenance of farm to market roads, trenches, dams and other key areas in the agricultural sector.
<<<This Online Publication >>> has been steadily reporting on the plight of rice farmers, with challenges including fluctuating paddy prices, crop infestation, flooded rice fields, poor infrastructure to cultivate and access their fields.
Region Two Vice Chairperson Nandranie Coonjah had explained earlier this year that the farmers have been complaining about the lack of maintenance of the roads leading into their farms. They observed then that little was being done to assist them at the national level.
Coonjah told <<<INews>>> in January that the 35,000 acres of rice which were under cultivation in the region, had represented a decline of over 1000 acres. She had pointed out that “bad lands” spilled off which led to an intrusion of salt water from the previous crop.
Regional Chairman Devanand Ramdatt had noted that more than 80 per cent of the region’s 50,000 plus residents are directly or indirectly connected to the rice industry.
Finance Minister Winston Jordan in his 2018 Budget presentation noted that the rice industry was expected to record an output of 602,087 tonnes for 2017, an increase of 12.7 per cent over 2016. He credited the increase mainly to an additional 14,000 hectares planted for the 2017 spring crop and a further 74,481 hectares planted in the autumn crop.