This letter is to let the general public know the disrespectful treatment given to the peanut farmers of Wauna, Whitewater and Kamwatta Amerindian communities by the regional administration of Region 1 (Barima/Waini). It is also intended to capture the attention of the Minister of Agriculture, Mr Robert Persaud, the Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Ms Pauline Sukhai, and President Bharrat Jagdeo so that they can urgently take the necessary corrective action.
A few months ago, the regional administration encouraged the peanut farmers of the mentioned communities to enter into sustainable peanut cultivation to supply the peanut butter cottage factory at Wauna for a price of $200 per pound. Hearing this good news the farmers approached the Institute of Private Enterprise Development (IPED) and were successful in their loan applications for peanut cultivation.
The harvesting of peanuts started as the plants matured and the farmers took their produce to be sold at the peanut butter factory at Wauna as was originally agreed by the regional administration and the management of the peanut butter factory.
The farmers were completely taken off their feet when they were told by the factory management that the new price for the peanuts was $160 per pound and not $200 per pound as was originally agreed. Further, the farmers who are poor and powerless were told that money for the purchasing of the peanuts was not available as yet, and that when it arrived, only one million dollars would be committed to purchasing the peanuts, even though the farmers had learnt that $3,000,000 was given by government for the purchasing of the peanuts.
The farmers are now in big trouble because they have large quantities of peanuts on their hands and no markets; they incurred expenses for the peanut cultivation such as payments for hired labour, transportation, rations and most importantly, loan repayments to IPED.
The peanut farmers of the Mabaruma sub-region are reduced to beggars as a result of this action. The big question is who will buy the peanuts from the farmers? So far, the regional administration is not saying anything to the farmers and they would like to know where they are going to get money to pay the expenses they have incurred for this project.
The peanut farmers are therefore calling on the Ministers of Agriculture and Amerindian Affairs to urgently conduct an investigation into the matter so as to determine why they are not being paid for their harvested peanuts by the peanut butter factory at Wauna.
Recently Minister of Agriculture, Mr Robert Persaud was in the Mabaruma sub-region promoting the grow more campaign, so the farmers would like to know if this ill-fated project has any connection to his visit.
We are sending a copy of this letter to Minister of Agriculture, Mr Robert Persaud, for any comments he might wish to make.