Poor drainage, low paddy prices and the high cost for fertiliser were the main issues highlighted by Corentyne coast rice farmers when they met with Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder last Friday in an effort to seek solutions.
The meeting was organised by the representative of the Prime Minister’s Office in Region Six, Gobin Harbajan, and held at the Skeldon Estate Training Centre. It saw over 120 farmers in attendance as well as representatives of the Guyana Rice Development Board and the Rice Producers’ Association (RPA).
Touching on drainage and irrigation, farmers from the Hogstye/Lancaster area vented their frustration over the clogged four main outfalls, which they have been enduring for years.
One farmer stressed that the outfalls need to be desilted immediately. He also vented his anger at an RPA official. According, to the farmer, after they pleaded with regional authorities for weeks and got an excavator allocated to them, after working for about one to two days before completing the work, the excavator is always relocated to the RPA official’s area. Throughout the meeting, the farmers took swipes at the RPA, which they accused of not supporting them as it should.
Farmers also stressed that millers are paying one flat rate for paddy, irrespective of the grade and they complained about the cost for fertiliser. The farmers also voiced concerns about not being given tax exemptions on vehicles, equipment and materials.
Minister Holder assured them that the government is committed to addressing the problems in the rice industry, which it wants to succeed.
Holder urged farmers to work together in an effort to better facilitate water management. “If all farmers plant together, this will aid in water management, rather than one planting now and another next week,” he said.
Touching on the cost of fertiliser, Holder divulged that the Agriculture Ministry had intended to provide fertiliser at $6,000 per bag and to allow farmers to import on their own, which would have brought the price to $4,500. However, he explained that before this could be made possible, in an effort to increase competition, the private retailers dropped their prices to $4,500.
According to Minister Holder, the Ministry of Finance has engaged the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on the re-establishment of an agricultural bank.
Farmers were also given the opportunity to provide suggestions on measures to reduce the cost of production. One suggestion heard by the meeting was the provision of more lands for cultivation.