Rice farmers should come together in a single organization

Dear Editor,

Rice farmers whose crop was affected by the red rice infestation are benefiting from the free distribution of fertilisers by the Guyana Rice Producer’s Association (RPA) in Region Two. The assessment of the affected acreage carried out by the extension staff of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) and the field staff of the Guyana Rice Producer’s Association (RPA) indicated that all 31,500 acres were affected. However, some assistance will have to be given in the area of high quality seed paddy to farmers in order to make good on the shortfall.

While the Ministry of Agriculture is doing its best to assist rice farmers in this region, rice millers are uniting by increasing their weight of 170 pounds for a bag of paddy. This means that we farmers should seek closer co-operation. Let us not divide ourselves into different bodies; rather, we should work towards creating one farmers’ organisation capable of defending the interest of all rice farmers.

The Rice Factories Act No 8 of 1998 clearly states that at the minimum grading equipment must be available to determine the quality of paddy and moisture; and dockage and standard scales must be provided for various operations in accordance with the stipulations laid down by the Guyana Rice Develop-ment Board (GRDB).

The scales and the grading equipment used at the rice factory have to be accurate, efficient and approved by the Board.

No person shall purchase or receive paddy for the manufacture of rice except at a price calculated on a bag of 143 pounds net or such other weight as may be prescribed by the Minister by order.

The consequences of these weights and grades are already being felt by rice farmers, and many are expected to reduce their production and profits. This trend has had more consequences for some rice farmers than others in other rice-growing regions.

The implications for the rice farmers can be quite serious indeed. Farmers will have to expect that these increased pounds and lower grades will inevitably threaten the comparatively high prices presently being enjoyed.

Considering the critical nature of the current situation caused by some millers, it will be necessary for the government and the GRDB to protect the interest of our rice farmers. Regional co-ordinators should report on the conditions in quality control laboratories at all mills; millers must be informed that the conditions for licensing are that they must employ trained graders and have proper equipment in the grading laboratory.

Yours faithfully,
Mohamed Khan

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