With every rainy season, more of our hardworking agricultural producers are dragged into poverty, thanks to a government which claims it cares. We have been inundated in the past with news about how many millions of dollars have been spent to improve the drainage (and in some cases, irrigation) of specific areas within the agricultural belt, but all these are reduced to nothing once the rains come. If indeed humongous sums have been spent in bettering the drainage system, why is it not working?
The Minister of Agriculture often has the effrontery to go and meet with the farmers and express his sympathy at their plight and outline to them the additional programmes which the government will undertake to improve their communities. There is always no shortage when it comes to the amount of money this administration says it will spend to ensure there is no flooding during the next rainy season.
The time has come for the farming community to give the Minister and others the cold shoulder whenever they visit their areas. They should simply not attend any meetings with government officials because it is an absolute waste of time. For the farmers in the flood-prone areas, there is no end in sight.
The political rhetoric will continue to play in their ears as the general election approaches. The farmers will be promised all kinds of programmes and assistance to make them better, but at the end of the day, they are going to be worse off than the previous rainy season. Remember, we are in the era of Global Warming, and such things as flooding are just going to get worse.
Small wonder the Rice Producers’ Association (RPA) cannot really represent the few farmers in its membership. The RPA has been used as a mobilization and organizational tool to get farmers to vote for the present regime at every general election. It is an organisation which was used as a tool against the PNC when it governed. It is a political organization which has done absolutely nothing for the farmers. It would be interesting if the RPA could tell us of its achievements since 1992 and how these achievements have positively impacted on the farmers and, by extension, the country.
The RPA should also let us know why it has so zealously supported the overcapitalization and over retooling of the rice industry at a time, even without the present massive flooding in the rice districts, the industry will record negative growth as a result of the continuing slump in world rice prices and massive increases in the cost of inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides.
The time may have arrived when the farmers in the Mahaica, Abary and Mahaicony Rivers should file a class action suit against the government because they have been continuously flooded out, with their crops and livestock detroyed, thus reducing them to beggars.
Lall Kumar Ramsingh