Small farmers won’t be left out in sale of Venezuelan fertiliser -Seeraj

Small scale farmers won’t be left at the wayside when the sale of the first shipment of fertiliser from Venezuela begins next Monday, according to General Secretary of the Rice Producers Association (RPA) Dharamkumar Seeraj.

The 5,000-tonne shipment of fertiliser, which arrived last week after multiple delays, has already been packaged into 100,000 bags and Seeraj told Stabroek News that farmers can begin purchasing the 50kg bags for $5,000 each from the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) by Monday.

Seeraj stated that the plan is to ensure that out of the 6,000 registered farmers, small scale farmers benefit. He noted that farmers will get at least one bag per acre of land, however, since the quantity is limited, no farmer will be allowed to purchase more than 30 bags.

“We have a pretty good database and we will have mechanisms in place to make sure that farmers purchase how much they need,” he said, while adding that since the price per bag will be significantly cheaper than the current $7,000 to $10,000 market price, the RPA did not want farmers abusing the system.

Farmers will currently use one to two bags of fertiliser per acre.

Seeraj said there is no concern about farmers abusing the system or attempting to purchase the fertiliser and then reselling it for a profit.

He noted that farmers are not in need of the fertiliser yet since harvesting of the second crop is ongoing.

He added that since receiving the shipment, the ministry in partnership with the GRDB and the RPA was anxious to ready the bags and to get them out to farmers. “We are encouraging all farmers to start purchasing and having the bags delivered sooner than later, we want them to collect their fertiliser and have it on hand,” he stated.

Stabroek news did inquire about the quality of the product received from Venezuela and was told that it was a high grade fertiliser and that since it was to be sold to farmers the ministry was very interested in acquiring a good product. Seeraj stated that “this is going to be sold to people, we can’t be selling a substandard product.”

Minister of Agriculture Dr Leslie Ramsammy had previously told Stabroek News that maintaining a low price for the fertiliser was a top priority because it was specifically aimed at targeting the rising cost of food production.

Ramsammy had said that the high cost of fertiliser had significantly contributed to the overall cost of food production.

The fertiliser pact became part of the PetroCaribe Agreement this year with another shipment is expected in March of 2014. Locally rice farmers require 20,000 tonnes of fertiliser annually, Venezuela will most likely be providing half of this annually through the PetroCaribe Agreement.

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