The regional administration of Region Six says there is not a cent available to assist rice farmers in the region. This was revealed by the Regional Chairman David Armogan yesterday during a telephone interview.
According to Armogan, while he had previously stated that the region would assist with ten million dollars, together with ten million that the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) had pledged, that will not be the case.
He told Kaieteur News that “the REO spoke to me this morning (yesterday) and she has since indicated that there is no money available. The budget had expired, but I had asked her to look to see if there is any other area where we could find the ten million. She said she searched and she can’t find any, but these people are playing games with the livelihood of persons”.
Armogan is now predicting that NDIA’s ten million dollars will only last for a week and a half, and if there is no rain, then the rice farmers who have already invested will collide head-on with a major agriculture crisis.
Noting that this is the first time such has occurred, the Regional Chairman said that there are many contributing factors to the current situation that persons in authority are turning a blind eye to. He added that although there was a huge chunk chopped from the budget, there should have been money still available in emergency cases such as the current one.
“You see although there was a lot cut from the budget. A lot of money was pushed into doing work in some of the traditional PNC areas like Sandvoort and certain parts on the East Bank Berbice, and those are new projects. I am not saying that work should not be done to develop, but given that there was a huge cut in the budget already, and then there were instances where fuel had to be provided for buses to go to Georgetown for some event last year for an entire month… all of that was not budgeted for, but money was found to do that”, he added.
Armogan further mentioned that there is a new system where fuel is put in “jars” from gas stations, and he had asked the Regional Executive Officer to provide a report every month as to how the fuel is being used, that he said has never been done.
Meanwhile, the Rice Producers Association is calling out Prime Minister (PM)’s representative Gobin Harbhajan and MP Barbara Pilgrim for their statements that the advice given to farmers to hold back on planting is “political”.
President of the RPA and large scale Berbice rice farmer-miller Lekka Rambridge is asking “Harbhajan and Barbara Pilgrim who will compensate farmers when they lose?”
Rambridge responding to the comments made in a recent article, told Kaieteur News that Harbhajan is being far from realistic. He added that “farmers are in anticipation that there would not be enough fuel. Why would I go and invest my money into a crop? Would Harbhajan pay me for the crop if I lose it? This is the question that needs to be asked. The Regional Chairman said it clear… ten million dollars will last for 10 days. Who is going to pump the rest of water? But now the region says they have no money, so it is only ten million farmers will get from NDIA. How long you think that will last?”
According to the RPA President, persons would not idly make it their duty to tell farmers not to plant if there was no risk involved. He stressed that it has been widely publicized that there is not enough fuel “now if we as farmers anticipate that there would not be enough money to buy fuel, how do we go into a crop with an uncertain mind if there would be enough water to finish the crop”.
Rambridge is contending that farmers will lose millions, and he asked what guarantee the PM’s representative and the MP have that water would be supplied. The RPA is therefore advising farmers to be careful.
Rambridge further stated that while they are only giving advice to farmers, it is their choice whether they may want to continue and plant. “We are not demanding anyone do anything, it is merely advice, and farmers have a right to take the advice or not, this has nothing to do with politics at our end”. He agreed with the Regional Chairman that if there is a dry spell, the monies that NDIA promised to assist with, along with what the region provides, could be used up in a short period of time.
Meanwhile, former Magistrate Krisendatt Persaud, who is also a large-scale miller on the Corentyne, has agreed with the RPA, and stated that farmers making the decision to plant would be“taking a risk”. He underscored that, “it is only fair what the RPA is advising, since there is no guarantee and farmers are not certain”. Persaud noted that while Harbhajan tries, “he must not pronounce on things he has very little knowledge about”.
Another farmer who plants rice in the Number 52-74 area, Ramlaghan Singh, who is also a member of the RPA, opined that while farmers are heading into planting with a risk “the government have to provide adequate drainage and irrigation, because they collect a lot of taxes from rice farmers”. Singh stated that he has already expended one hundred thousand dollars on 50 acres of his land.
The Regional Chairman David Armogan had stated that NDIA has pledged to assist with ten million dollars for the purchase of fuel to work the pumps. He disclosed that it was announced at a board meeting held last Thursday. However, Armogan had pointed out that “the region does not have sufficient funds to last till the end of the year, and if the weather continues to be dry from now until December, we don’t have sufficient money to buy fuel”. He had expressed concerns that if there is an extended dry weather period, farmers could stand the risk of losing millions, since it is expected that there would not be fuel to work the pumps for the remaining two weeks in December.
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