After several requests were made by rice farmers and residents of Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) Agriculture Minister Noel Holder visited the area on Friday, and met with rice farmers who lobbied for proper representation within the sector.
During the consultation held in the boardroom of the Regional Democratic Council (RDC), rice farmers lobbied for the establishment of a development bank, which they posted would greatly assist farmers.
Speaking on behalf of rice farmers, Government Councillor and Chairman of the Essequibo Paddy Farmers Association, Naitram affirmed that the establishment of the bank would indeed ease the burden on rice farmers.
According to Naitram, scores of rice farmers are presently indebted to the commercial banks and are being asked to pay high interest rates. However, he noted that with the establishment of the bank, less interest would be charged which would, in turn, benefit the farmers.
“We really need this bank in this region. Region Two heavily depends on rice and the commercial banks are asking for too much interest; many farmers cannot afford and as such, their collateral were seized,” Naitram said.
In response, Minister Holder said the development bank is something the Government is now looking at and the Caribbean Development Bank is doing a survey to see the feasibility of such bank. This, he said, was one of the things that were asked by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that Government should not get involved, but I think the bank is a good decision.”
Other rice farmers who were present at the meeting supported the initiative, and called for enhanced support from the Ministry. Many rice farmers have noted the state of the economy within the region and have called for assistance in the form of a reduction of fertilisers’ prices or a subsidy on fuel.
Regional Chairman Devanand Ramdatt expressed gratitude towards the Minister for the visit and used the opportunity to highlight concerns over the state of the economy and its negative impact on the residents.
Ramdatt reiterated the need for assistance for those rice farmers and residents who recently suffered from flooding due to extreme rainfall. The Chairman emphasised that there should be no denying that the Region was affected by flooding and rice lands were under threat. He, therefore, pleaded with the Minister and his team for assistance.
Also present at the meeting were Region Two Member of Parliament, Haimraj Rajkumar; Regional Executive Officer Rupert Hopkinson; Permanent Secretary of the Agriculture Ministry, George Jervis; Prime Minister Representative Karan Chand and the heads of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA); Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB); Pesticide Board and Crop and Livestock, Fisheries.
Scores of rice farmers in Region Two have vented their frustrations, as well as opinions on Government’s approach towards the rice industry. Many of them said that the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition Government, since assuming office, has not plugged in the kind of support that was really needed in the industry for its sustenance. Many of them were disappointed and dissatisfied with Government’s interventions in the industry.