Suriname rice farmers still awaiting

(de Ware Tijd) PARAMARIBO – Rice farmers will have to make do without the promised SRD 3.2 million in aid by the government. ‘It all depends on the decision by the Council of Ministers. If they give a positive signal we have to find the financial means because they are not in the budget. The stakeholders just have to be patient,’ permanent secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture (LVV) Gerrit Breinburg says.
There are serious doubts on the height of the sum. ‘Let me point out that LVV never promised subsidy, so we are not aware of a sum’, Breinburg explains in order to emphasize that the promises were made by the rice organ chaired by national rice coordinator Badrisein Sital. ‘The only task we took upon us was to check how the subsidy should be channeled to the farmers.’ Sital and LVV Minister Hendrik Setrowidjojo have been at loggerheads over the matter, trashing each other in the media regularly.
Although Sital still has high hopes, he is a bit disappointed. ‘There is no unity in the sector. Only when all stakeholders in the sector and in the government are on the same level we will be able to revive the sector.’ Sital admits that the promised higher yields and exports have not materialized, but he blames this on dissension and political influences. The rice official emphasizes that there should be no doubt about whether the SRD 3.2 million should be granted to the sector.
Currently Surinamese rice is more expensive than that of competitors Guyana and the USA, which could lead to a drop in turnover of US$ 5 million. Sital argues that the competitors are guaranteed government subsidies in order to sell at a lower price. Still Sital is not losing faith. ‘We produce more per hectare than the Guyanese. We fail to sow in more, but the quality of our rice is still among the best.’ He hopes that every stakeholder in the sector will use this as an incentive in the years ahead. ‘It isn’t lack of money, but simply the lack of good coordination. We fail to see that we are all working towards the same goal to integrate policy,’ the official says.

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