Rice farmers protest non-payment of monies by Mahaicony Rice Mills
- Ministry urges farmers to notify authorities
Rice farmers along the Essequibo Coast are calling on Government to intervene in the matter where the Mahaicony Rice Mills (MRL) is yet to pay outstanding sums owed to them.
Several of these farmers on Friday, last, staged a protest in their region as they complained about the actions of this rice mill.
They voiced their concerns with regards to the delayed payments by the company.
One man explained that he wanted the owner of the MRL to meet with the farmers and discuss the terms of their payments.
“We need to speak with the owner, because he needs to talk to us like human beings and tell us when and how we will get our money. It isn’t like we are begging for money, it belongs to us because they took our rice and are supposed to pay for it. But we allowed them to take it on credit and the time has come for the MRL to pay us back,” he stated.
Another farmer who told this newspaper that he hails from Devonshire said that he has been “back and forth” trying to get his outstanding payments but has been unsuccessful to date.
“We want our money because we have expenses and need the money to run our homes and buy new tractor parts and maintain our machinery and such. This isn’t fair that we have to go through this for our money. We need the Government to help us get our money.”
Kaieteur News was also told that one farmer, Indarpaul Bhagratie from Hampton Court, claimed that MRL owes him over $450,000 for the sale of paddy in October 2011, while another farmer alleged that the company issued him a bounced cheque for paddy he sold many months ago.
Many of these farmers told this newspaper that most of the money that the company owes to them belongs to the bank since they took loans to purchase equipment, machinery and continue their businesses.
“MRL has over $1M to pay me so many months now and I took a loan from the bank and have to repay them as well as pay for other expenses. The bank’s interest continues to rise with passing time and it is me who is losing out. The Ministry of Agriculture needs to intervene.”
Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, yesterday told this publication that in December, 2011, the sum of outstanding monies was over $200M.
However, payments were made during December to March, 2012 and the figure outstanding dropped significantly to about $50M.
Dr. Ramsammy explained that some of these farmers notified his Ministry that MRL was making payments and that a majority of the affected rice farmers received most of their payments.
“Some of these farmers called between January to April at the Ministry to say that MRL was making payments to them. Most of the farmers had received most of the money owed to them. At December last year it was over $200M owed to the farmers but these payments have reduced the figure to about $50M.”
He stated that in the past government intervened when the said company failed to make payments to rice farmers and that is was the government who paid the affected farmers the large sums of money.
However, when government was trying to recoup this money from MRL, the farmers still continued to sell their produce on credit to the rice mill.
According to the Agriculture Minister, some of the rice farmers do not notify the Ministry of their transactions with MRL and it is only when there are payment problems that they turn to the Ministry.
He did acknowledge that there are some farmers who would contact the Rice Producers Association (RPA) and other relevant authorities to make them aware of their arrangements with the rice mill.
When this is done it is much easier for the authorities to verify those who have been affected and to what extent, Ramsammy said.
“We don’t have all the names of the farmers who the MRL owes since the farmers had private transactions with this rice mill and the MRL has not shared such information with the Ministry. We have been calling on these farmers to come forward and say who they are and how much money they have been owed and have gone even so far as to place an advertisement in the newspapers some weeks ago asking that they make contact with us so we can know. We want them to come forward so we can determine how much money is outstanding and to whom.”
He urged that for future transactions all of the farmers notify some authority so that if such an occasion should arise once more the Ministry will be able to deal with the situation at a faster pace.