Sowing of the present crop commenced over two months ago in Region Two, although red rice infestation somewhat affected the last crop yield and grades.
Over the past years, there has been a general increase in the prices for fertilizers and pesticides. Research data, field trials and actual farm use have shown that when properly used, commercial fertilizers can result in significant economic advantage to the farmer. In 2008, a task force was set up by the former Minister of Agriculture Mr Robert Persaud to tacke the high price of fertilizers and to ensure adequate supplies for the local market and rice farmers.
After the elections the task force disappeared and the farmers have been left to fend for themselves, although government had slashed duties and taxes on fertilizers. Farmers were recently being asked to pay in excess of $10,000 per bag, more than $3,000 above an agreed price.
At present the farmers can hardly escape the vagaries of the free market economy in which the price of fertilizers is determined. The government in order to encourage production should introduce subsidies on fertilizers. The rice farmers during this oppressive period are being caught in an inescapable net of exploitation by local importers and distributors.
While rice farmers are getting low prices for their produce, the millers do not allow their profits to be affected. It would therefore be advisable for policymakers to give special consideration to subsidies on fuel, fertilizers, spares, bags, twine, etc, or allow the Guyana Sugar Corporation, which is also a key importer, to play a bigger role in the importation process. The sad reality is that the local importers and distributors are dislocating Guyana’s rice industry rather than injecting new life into the sector, as was the stated intent. In effect, the importers have impoverished farmers.