In Guyana while the Ministry of Agriculture is spending $40 million this year on improved rice varieties, enhanced rice production and improved quality, a huge acreage of rice is being spoiled in the fields in Region 6. But the slashing of the Agriculture Budget by $3 billion dollars has signaled the Government’s intention that they do not care much about this sector.
In the last crop in Region 6 rice farmers were unable to harvest more than 200 acres of rice due to impassable dams which have gotten worse due to the rainy conditions. But this is an ongoing natural phenomenon, it is not as if the rains have been extra spiteful this year! The rain falls every year but the major downfall is the continual decreasing emphasis on repairs of the dams and other infrastructure repairs and maintenance in the Agriculture Sector in Region 6. These have been on a downward trajectory since this Government took office. This administration feels that oil is the answer to all our economic woes as is evidenced by the insane and inane haste to close the four sugar estates.
Unfortunately, this crop in Region 6 is marred by the continuous degradation of the dams to the extent that nearly 15,000 acres of rice lands have not been cultivated. This was highlighted at our last statutory meeting at the RDC. The Vice Chairman, Mr Dennis Deoroop estimated that it will take nearly $200 million to get these dams back in shape and this is not possible in the short-term. He also highlighted the fact that the ongoing bulldozer fiasco has severely dented the Region’s ability to do proper repairs and maintenance of the dams in the farming areas.
What is most disappointing is that the dams have never been in the current state they are now in. Tractors, hymacs and graders are literally drowned on some of these dams and it is a huge challenge for farmers to transport vital inputs and labour. This will definitely affect the level of production and our export market especially at a time when we are trying to expand our markets abroad. We may definitely lose some of these. This was highlighted at the RDC meeting as well.
A few days ago, I spoke to a cash crop farmer at Maida and he showed me pictures of what was taking place at his ten-acre farm situated only about three miles into the back dam. Thousands of limes, oranges, cherries and bananas were strewn below the trees. It was a most pitiful sight to look at the horrendous wastage and the income it could have generated. The gentleman who operates a tyre shop told me that he has a thriving cane juice business as well but he cannot transport the canes out of the area, thus placing a halt to that business as well. The dam has completely disappeared in some areas. He is just one of the many farmers who accepted the challenge to expand farming into the more remote areas and the others like himself are suffering just alike. Who will compensate these enterprising farmers?
How can we ask our farmers to produce and when they do they perish as well? The $3 billion from the budget could have gone towards fixing the dams and infrastructure and done much more. It is conclusive that this Government has failed the Agriculture sector badly; they have destroyed sugar now it seems that rice is a similar work-in-progress!
RDC Councillor Region 6