After issuing threats of legal action back in August, the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary Agricultural Development Authority (MMA/ADA) has resorted to having a number of Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) farmers pay in full alleged debts amounting to millions for rent, irrigation and drainage on lands leased to them by the authority.
On Tuesday, some 50 rice farmers appeared before the Region’s Rice Assessment Committee, sitting at the Mahaicony Magistrate’s Court, to answer claims filed against them by MMA/ADA totaling millions of dollars.
These charge increases were levied in 2017 and purported raised land rent from $1000 to $7000 and $2500 to $8000 for drainage and irrigation, per acre, annually.
At the hearing, attorney-at-law Anil Nandlall appeared on behalf of the farmers, along with attorney-at-law Javed K. Shadick.
During the hearing, Nandlall presented preliminary legal submissions, which entails that the committee, by virtue of its composition, is illegal and unconstitutional and therefore, has no jurisdiction to hear and determine any of the applications before it.
As such, the matters were adjourned to November 12 when the Chairman of the Committee will rule on the submissions made.
Also present at the hearing were executives of the Rice Producers Association (RPA) including the General Secretary Dharamkumar Seeraj.
General Manager of the MMA-ADA, Aubrey Charles had previously highlighted in an interview with this publication, that the farmers have adopted a habitual behaviour of not paying service charges on time, thus owing in excess of $1 billion at the time.
This according to Charles, is coupled with them complaining about the rapidly deteriorating state of main roadways into rice lands, which cannot be fixed without monies being spent.
“Farmers are required to pay charges for the management and maintenance of all drainage and irrigation works. One of the big challenge that we face currently is farmers are not paying their rates in a timely manner…So, on one hand, the MMA is trying its best so as to make the roads accessible and on the other hand, we appeal to farmers to pay their charge,” he previously explained.