With late payments and the pricing of paddy being only two of several critical issues that continue to affect rice farmers, a small number of rice farmers, led by officers attached to the Guyana Rice Producers Association (RPA), Essequibo sub office, staged a peaceful protest outside of the building at Anna Regina, yesterday morning.
Farmers who are owed monies by millers since March of this year are demanding to be paid while others concerned about how much they would be paid for a bag of paddy for this crop and beyond, are requesting that the new Government release the $23B that was allotted in the 2015 budget for payments to be effected.
One female rice farmer, Mrs. Budram, of Reliance, Essequibo Coast, explained that for the last 15 years she has been selling seed paddy.
She is worried that if the price does not improve significantly, rice farmers would encounter difficulties going back into the field come the next crop.
Budram argued that the cost of production is extremely high and she is not making any profits like before.
Meanwhile, Devika Persaud, who owns almost 11 acres of rice land, is strongly contending that rice farmers, especially on the Essequibo Coast need to be educated.
Persaud argued that Agriculture is not based only on “rice”; instead, farmers should by now be thinking about diversification, since the rice industry is already wounded and sinking.
“It’s a shame to see we the farmers have one cause and are divided because of political influences.”
Persaud also made reference to the last Government, maintaining that if they had truly cared about rice farmers and the rice Industry, farmers would not have been in this predicament today.
She said that any protest must have a “meaning” and as such it is unfair to now blame the new government, since they have taken over with a lot of “mess to clean”.
“This mess that this Government has reached would take years to clean,” she said.
The vocal rice farmer is insisting that if rice farmers cannot have unity and cooperate, millers would continue to play “football” with them.
Persaud added that farmers should consider planting peas, beans and poultry, like in the early eighties. She said many farmers are aware and used to intercrop previously, but instead of looking at the situation realistically, it has now become a blame game.
Persaud is further calling on the new government to do its best to help farmers. Persaud is appealing for the resuscitation of Silos, and the Guyana Agriculture Bank.
Many rice farmers are preparing to harvest in the new week. (Yannason Duncan)
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