Black Bush rice farmers promised rice payout

Angry Black Bush Polder Corentyne rice farmers, who protested in the streets over non-payment for their paddy have been promised some $90 million in overdue payments from rice miller Jai Beni.

The Berbice rice farmers had expressed major frustration that the mill at Black Bush Polder has been unable to pay the over $140 million it owes them and its management has not been responsive to their pleas.

Stabroek News was told that farmers were warned that the Black Bush Mill had been delinquent in the past.

However, with rice production soaring—in excess of 635,000 tonnes last year—farmers were forced to utilize the mill to unload their large amounts of paddy due to the lack of storage facilities. But they have been waiting months for payments and turned to the streets to protest on Friday last.

Police were called to the mill and assisted in dispersing the commotion, which involved the burning of tyres. The Guyana Rice Development Board then held a meeting with farmers on Saturday.

Stabroek News was told that Beni, a Surinamese national, was making arrangements to pay farmers and 60% of the overdue payments were made, but an outstanding sum of $140 million remained. This publication was told that the miller had a private deal for rice exports to Jamaica and a payment of $90 million is expected.

An additional shipment is due to be sent at the end of this week and once payment is received, the farmers should be paid also.

Stabroek News was told that although the mill was not given additional licences it was opened for just two weeks and ended up with over 100 bags of paddy.

The situation between rice farmers and millers continues to be precarious while the industry is expanding. Over 501,000 tonnes of rice were exported for 2014, but lack of storage and late payments for paddy continue to divide the two groups.

The GRDB has pushed for farmers and millers to take on the entrepreneurial responsibility of creating storage facilities.

Farmers for their part have lobbied for mills to be penalized for their inability to pay in a timely manner. However industry experts say that should this happen and mills lose their licenses the situation would become more difficult with pressure being placed on fewer millers who would also not have the funds to pay farmers in a timely fashion.

Farmers have also lobbied for commercial banks to make loans available to them during the start of the two rice harvests. Rice farmers have long stated that bank loans would reduce their reliance on immediate payment from millers.

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