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May 01, 2016 News
Farmers of Skeldon and surrounding communities in Region Six voiced their concerns and shared suggestions for the rice industry’s development with Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder, and a visiting team, on Friday.
The meeting at the Skeldon Estate Training Centre was held in an effort to improve the rice industry and better meet the needs of the farmers. The Minister assured them that the issues raised will be addressed, a Government statement said.
The meeting identified challenges facing rice farmers; subsidies for the industry; the need for aerial spraying, and measures to reduce production costs among others.
On the issue of the cost for fertilisers, Minister Holder explained to the farmers that the Ministry was looking to provide fertiliser at $6000 per bag, and to allow farmers to import their own, which would have brought the price down to $4500.
However, before this could have been done, the private importers dropped their prices to $4000 in the face of competition.
The Minister also urged the farmers to work together to facilitate better water management. He said, “If all farmers plant together, this will aid in water management rather than one planting now, and another next week.”
The farmers expressed their disappointment at not being given tax exemptions on their vehicles, equipment and materials.
Addressing the issue, the Agriculture Minister explained that if the Customs officers request a letter from the Ministry, it may be part of their operating protocol.
This, he said, is not necessary for all cases; however. “In the case of a tractor, it can be used for many purposes, so Customs may need proof that you are really a farmer.”
Financing was also discussed and Minister Holder pointed out that the Ministry of Finance has engaged the Inter -American Development Bank (IDB) on the re-establishment of an agricultural bank.
Farmers also complained that the Rice Producers Association (RPA) was not doing them any justice and that their concerns have fallen on deaf ears.
One farmer stated, “They don’t represent we, all these issues you (the head table) telling us we should raise with RPA we did, but we ain’t get no help.”
On the issue of competition in the industry, the President of the Upper Corentyne Chamber of Commerce, Abraham Subnauth, argued that, “It is not healthy for the private sector if the state runs a free market.”
Responding to this argument, Minister Holder stressed that “while the government has a role towards private sector development, it has an obligation to the farmers, and we will not engage in exploitation of farmers.”
The farmers were also given the opportunity to provide suggestions on measures to reduce the cost of production. Among those provided were the need for better farm roads and more lands for cultivation.
Nizam Hassan, General Manager of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), was urged by the farmers to adjust the board’s research styles and techniques. They noted that competitors are way ahead of Guyana in terms of industry research.
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