Over the years I observed that the government has been bailing out rice millers with large sums of money to pay rice farmers, although there was a EU facility which was set up for millers to access loans at Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry.
The finance under the EU facility could be utilized for working capital by millers and exporters ($420M) and as revolving loans for input suppliers ($300M); the purchase of machinery and equipment related to rice production ($200M) and rice milling ($300M). For rice producers there was $437.5M for the rehabilitation and expansion of facilities related to rice production and milling. In total the fund amounted to $1657.5M or €6.5M.
Farmers want to know if these loans are still active at GBTI and how much of this money was utilized by millers, exporters and rice farmers in achieving and sustaining production. I have witnessed over the last decade billions invested by millers to upgrade their mills, warehouses, laboratories dryers and seen improved efficiency using modern technologies, while farmers have not been paid for years. The government, mindful of the industry, announced in the 2014 Budget that it would inject G$500M towards funding crucial research and subsidizing fertilizers to assist farmers.
Although this is a good move, I’m not very optimistic that this fund will filter down to the ordinary rice farmers. The goal should be an investment fund, offering loans at below market rates to small and medium-size farmers and to promote a well-capitalized and efficient industry. Training and education are important in helping farmers to adopt new technologies in rice production, and projects and programmes to support extension services which have disappeared over the years.
Indeed, the industry continues to play no small role in feeding the Guyanese population; its multifaceted role in the country’s economy touches every citizen. Through rice, the economy secures a sizeable part of the country’s foreign exchange and should receive more money than the failing sugar industry,