The rice industry in Region Two [Pomeroon/Supenaam] is presently experiencing what is believed to be its worst phase in history. According to reports reaching this publication, a severe paddy bug infestation plagued the entire Essequibo Coast this crop, significantly decreasing production by more than 50%.
The frustrating situation has left a number of farmers no choice, but to set fire to their fields.
This publication was on the scene yesterday, and had an opportunity to speak with a number of farmers. One farmer told Kaieteur News that the price for paddy was slashed by more than half this crop, due to the poor quality of the grain. The farmer also explained that setting the field afire will be more economical, instead of harvesting and transporting to the mill, which they claim will result in a greater loss. “The price slash by half and the expense gone up by four times…When you cut a 300 and 400 bags per block, you only find that about 100 bag good. The half that you get is not no quality of paddy because of the bug and the blast inside.”
The farmer said that there was a bug infestation back in 2013, but this is the worst he has seen in his entire farming career. He also pointed out that after spraying, the bugs will temporarily migrate to neighbouring fields and later return.
Farmers claim that their grains were severely affected by blast – a blight which affects the full growth and maturity of the grain. According to a rice farmer, before developing into a solid grain the rice must first undergo a milky stage, in which the pods are very soft. These soft pods, the farmers stressed, are often punctured by paddy bugs in infested fields.
On the Essequibo Coast, most of the rice lands are located on the western end of the coast, between the main coastland and the hinterland.
Kaieteur News understands that after a number of crops, no measures were taken to smoke the hinterland area. It is believed that the bugs were conveniently bred in the densely forested area, where they eventually multiplied.
Despite all efforts by farmers to eradicate the pests, the infestation continues to plague the once prospering sector – primarily those farmers in the deep west. Some six miles west of Dartmouth on the Essequibo Coast is located some 1000 acres of rice lands, all of which were affected by the pests.
These lands are cultivated by a few farmers, including Robin Persaud, planting 63 acres of rice, Ken Cornette planting 70 acres, Ganga Persaud, 47 acres, Shafeek Majeed 98 acres, Kowal Persaud 130 acres and Mohamed K. Ally with 284 acres. These men, who gathered to burn their fields yesterday, told Kaieteur News that they were left with no other option, since the grains sitting in the field cannot compensate the investment.
The farmers, most of whom are committed to the local lending institutions, are urgently pleading with the government to take urgent measures in rendering assistance to the dying industry.
“If we nah get assistance we can’t wuk back dem dis land, because we nah got no money. We need de government help in any way how them can help we, even if is in assisting with the seed paddy or even fuel. We need some assistance in the banking system… maybe if the government can wave off the installment for like a six months. Because the government under Bharrat Jagdeo had a restructuring of the loan… as a matter of fact they deh do it twice and they provided fuel.”
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