By Tracey Khan – Drakes
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Essequibo Rice Farmers are not out of the woods yet and fear the worst is yet to come since a huge surplus of paddy remains in the system from the previous crop due to a lack of market.
Only recently, a peaceful protest by farmers in Essequibo turned violent for payment from rice millers, with several police officers being assaulted and some 19 rice farmers charged and their equipment ceased.
Alliance For Change (AFC) Councilor in Essequibo, Naith Ram said this is causing an excess and the farmers fear the present crop is heading towards a disaster.
“Over 115,000 tons of paddy still remains in the system which will be brought forward into the new crop. This raises the question of supply and demand the price for paddy in the new crop is in trouble; it will affect thousands of rice farmers and their family in the region.
The farmers’ concerns remain the same and includes untimely payments, interest on money owed to them by millers, poor drainage, enforcement of the grading system and the most recent challenge – post dated checks.
Ram also expressed concerns about the post dated cheques that were issued to farmers after their protest action and explained that they can only cash the cheques until the end of August. This trend, he said has been a tactic of the Government.
The farmers are again demanding government’s help for full payment of their produce and guarantee markets and fair prices. The AFC councilor also rejected claims by the Government that farmers were drunk on the day of the protest. He also vehemently denied stripping himself and blamed law enforcement officers for this.
Ram walked with the clothes he was wearing that day and showed how it was ripped and blood stains were all over.
The farmers, after protesting were paid two days later. Another farmer for the past 30 years, Bridgelall said farmers who were main supporters of the People’s Progressive Party Civic saw the government’s true colors at the recent protest action after they were treated like criminals.
The farmers maintained that protesting was their only option for results since on many occasions they sought to meet with the relevant authorities and were only given promises with no results. Four framers today joined the AFC at its weekly press conference and expressed their sentiments.