Rice farmers at a public meeting on Sunday on the West Coast Demerara agreed to set up a ‘Workers and Farmers Action Committee’ to pursue higher prices for their paddy as millers are now offering just $2,000 and $2,500 per bag.
The farmers were addressed by General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress Norris Witter, according to a press release from the Rice Producers Association (RPA) Action Committee.
And also attending the meeting were rice miller Turhane Doerga and Jinnah Rahman, chief spokesman of the RPA Action Committee which says it is a pressure group within the Guyana Rice Producers Association (GRPA) but which the GRPA says it doesn’t recognise.
According to the release, the GTUC General Secretary told the meeting that it “was a historic moment where rice farmers and workers will be actively supporting each other in the common cause for better working and living conditions.”
Doerga, CEO for Alesie Rice Mill and a rice farmer, told the farmers that he was prepared to stand on their side in their gallant effort to win a substantial price for their paddy at a time when there was massive “confusion created by certain millers for their own selfish purposes,” the release said.
The release quoted him as telling the farmers that, “You are the producers of rice, not us the millers and you must demand a price that is profitable and sustainable.”
Meanwhile, Jinnah Rahman, an RPA activist, told the farmers that rice was a business and like any other it must make a profit. He said, the release stated, that government was willing to subsidize flour to the Guyanese consumers at a high cost but was unwilling to intervene so rice farmers could get a reasonable price to sustain the industry.
Rahman noted also that European, American and Canadian governments have always subsidized their farmers and he called on the Guyana government to do the same, adding that Guyanese consumers were on the side of the rice farmers.
“We will not settle for less than $5,000 per bag for our paddy,” Rahman is reported to have told the farmers.
He said further that consumers need to know that the rice industry is at the crossroads as far as production for local consumption is concerned and meeting export demands and they need to actively support the farmers in their demand for a price of $5,000 to $6,000 per bag for their paddy or the consequence would be having to import rice at a higher price than what it is produced for in Guyana.
The farmers also gave a mandate to the RPA Action Committee to organize a special rice farmers conference to reorganize the way in which the Guyana Rice Producers Association has been running, the release added.