…Insist rice is in crisis
Rice farmers from Regions Two, Three, Five and Six including the islands of Leguan and Wakenaam picketed the Ministry of the Presidency, yesterday.
Their issues are many; they include the current situation regarding rice farmers not being paid by rice millers thus, placing many of them on the breadline.
The Venezuela market, which represents a sizable percent of export earnings and seems no longer viable after November, is a problem. President David Granger had announced that the local rice industry is not in crisis even after Venezuela’s announcement that it will no longer be taking Guyana’s rice after November.
Dharamkumar Seeraj, head of the Guyana Rice Producers’ Association was on the picket line yesterday. He said the protesters underscore the belief that the situation of Millers not paying farmers in Guyana has reached a crisis stage.
“One farmer who was owed in excess of $6M by millers committed suicide two weeks ago because of stress, and this situation is likely to repeat itself unless the government does something about it.”
President David Granger had announced that the local rice industry is not in crisis even after Venezuela’s announcement that they will no longer be taking Guyana’s rice after November.
He said the protest is to let Government understand that they should not be saying that rice is not in crisis when they are not on the ground to know the realities. He said farmers were promised $6000-$7000per bag of paddy, while the reality is that they are getting $1800 to $1900 and in some cases $1500 instead.
But on the other hand, Seeraj says that some of the millers are experiencing problems too. “We have a situation where 285 containers of rice were delivered to the GRDB and were left on the wharf. Millers were subsequently asked to collect back the high quality rice that was for the Venezuelan market. ” Millers say the 7000 tons of rice alone amount to more than $400 million in losses.
Seeraj said that he wrote to the GDRB to have discussion to help cushion some of the losses but he got no response. Seeraj also said the government is also breaking the law. The GRDB Act states that there should be three representatives from the Guyana Rice Producers Association; this was communicated to the Agriculture Minister via letter on the matter. There has been no response, neither was any appointment made.
He said that similarly the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority Act states that among the Board of Directors there must be two nominees from the Guyana Rice Producers Association and again no one from the RPA. “The minister recognized this and spoke to me on June 24 about this matter and advised me to submit names which I did on June 25 and still no response.”
While he does not totally blame the Minister of Agriculture, he said that he believes that it is an Act following orders from higher authorities in Government not to recognize the RPA. He said the RPA has been in existence long before any political party and should not be viewed as an arm of any party.
“Not to recognize the Rice Producers association which is the oldest rice producers since 1946 is a blow to the industry and already we are seeing the industry starting to go down.”
The issues highlighted include the access roads not being repaired, farmers don’t know when they harvest the paddy where it’s going to go, millers are saying they don’t know what price they will pay and rice farmers are saying that it doesn’t make sense planting rice if they don’t get $3000-$3500 per bag.
He said rice production records have been broken on the high side in 2009 but the new fears are that another record will be broken on lower side.
The argument is that many farmers will not be able to go back to the land to begin new crops while others will not be able to harvest their current crop.
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