$600M in rice ‘saved by interventions’
Authorities mull waiver of taxes, D&I fees for farmers
An estimated $600M worth in rice under threat from the dry conditions brought on by the El Niño phenomenon, has been saved from damage because of interventions, the Ministry of Agriculture said yesterday.
During a press conference to update on the interventions, Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, also disclosed that affected rice farmers may very well see a waiver on the payments of rates and taxes and drainage and irrigation fees.
The Ministry has put together a team to pinpoint key areas that will come in for assistance from a $258M alleviation announced by President Bharrat Jagdeo, during a visit this past weekend to Region Two, Essequibo Coast.
But it is not the rice and farmlands alone under threat. Several cattle farmers are under threat, too, and veterinary supplies and feed have been made available that benefitted 14,000 head of cattle and almost 7,000 small ruminants.
According to Persaud, while the focus now is how to ease the plight of the farmers and bring water to farmlands, the Ministry is already looking down the line to ease possible fallout from the current situation.
Part of the $258M will therefore be used to purchase seeds and other planting materials.
The dry conditions have also brought the threat of pests and diseases and assistance will also be geared in this direction to assist farmers.
In addition to more high density drainage tubes, the Ministry will also be looking to purchase six hay balers that will assist in moving the paddy straw for feed use for cattle.
According to the Minister, the government is racking up a hefty $3.5M bill everyday for fuel and lubricants, as 20 irrigation pumps and 27 excavators work to bring irrigation water to farmlands.
Already, the government was forced to utilize resources of the Guyana Sugar Corporation, diverting these to save other crops that are under threat.
In the hinterland areas, especially around Pomeroon, it is the plan to assist farmers and residents there with black water tanks, as there is growing evidence that the salinity content is unacceptably high, which poses a significant risk to farms.
So far, since the warning of government last year about the threat of less rain and a dry spell, government and agricultural officials have met with residents and farmers on more than 130 occasions.
With harvesting underway, there are still 8,000 cultivated acres that face potential damage, a grim Persaud disclosed. Cattle are also facing a rough time.
The good news is that there are still 90,000 tonnes of rice leftover that will cater to the local market, thus ensuring no shortages.
So far, the rice industry has seen $150M being plugged into it to assist farmers. This is excluding over $200M spent to conduct emergency drainage and irrigation works using government resources.
Of course, the Minister admitted, the allocation as announced by President Jagdeo is not enough, but the resources are limited.
The measures being implemented using the limited allocations have shown positive effects and were able to reduce losses. Across the country, canals were dug to bring water from non-traditional sources and these have served to ease farmers somewhat.