[www.inewsguyana.com] – Region Two rice farmers are calling for better systems to be put in place to avoid a repeat of what occurred under the Petro-Caribe fund, under the previous Government.
Naith Ram, Tage Shewcharran, Bhim Singh and Karan Chand of the Essequibo Paddy Farmers Association appeared on the National Communications Network on Saturday, June 14, expressing their dissatisfaction with the fact that the fund is empty.
Naith Ram observed that hundreds of farmers on the Essequibo coast have not been paid since March which has seen them going to the bank to continue their business, which is not the best way out.
Shewcharran observed that former President Bharrat Jagdeo had promised that the funds would have been filtered down directly to the farmers. The farmers stated that the fund never worked for them, and called for a better system to be put in place in wake of the failure of the fund.
Naith Ram expressed the hope that government would step in and help the rice farmers. He asked for a special revolving fund to be set aside which was what the Petro Caribe should have been, so they could be paid on time.
“The previous government was saying that the Petro-Caribe fund was a revolving fund, but I do not know how it is a revolving fund, when we the farmers are not benefiting out of it, but what we want, we want a special fund to be set aside in the bank, whereby farmers and likewise the millers can go and borrow, especially the millers, so that we can be paid in a timely manner and not have to wait six to eight months down the road to receive our payments,” he said.
On June 11, Minister of State Joseph Harmon had announced that the fund was empty and that US$15M was needed to pay rice farmers. The PetroCaribe Fund was set up as part of Guyana’s arrangement with Venezuela, to pay local famers supplying rice to the neighbouring country under a concessionary fuel supply agreement. Thus far the fund should have contained sums amounting to hundreds of millions of US dollars.
The Region Two farmers also used the opportunity to call for the reform of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) and the removal of its head.
“I am appealing to the Minister and the new Government that the GRDB board must go,” Naith Ram said, adding that “the Board has been corrupt and have been working in collusion with the millers. The ones who are suffering are basically the ones who are toiling in the field,” Naith Ram said.
Speaking to the issue of collusion, the farmers observed that the GRDB was working for millers and shortchanging the farmers, on a number of issues including paddy prices, in terms of fertilizers and the grading of the paddy.
“You have transactions going on between members of the board with some individual millers, whereby those on the board are having drawback from the millers.”
They noted that millers purchase the paddy from farmers and then sell them to overseas markets and give the farmers a pittance. The grading system has a law which is broken by all the millers without penalties being administered, the farmers also said.
Seecharran noted that “all the millers break the law but nobody aint telling them nothing. When you cut your paddy and carry it to the mill, you cannot talk for your rights, you get victimised…the grading system they are not implementing the law, even in the weight, even in the moisture and they are taking advantage over farmers and all GRDB telling us is that they gon look into it.”[Extracted and modified from GINA]