Agri Minister pledges to assist Catherina Sophia cattle farmers with pasture lands

Cattle farmers from Catherina Sophia, West Bank Demerara on Tuesday met Minister of Agriculture. Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha to seek his assistance with providing alternative lands for cattle pasture.

The group of farmers, who also cultivate cash crops, indicated that they had applied for lands to graze their cattle but, to date, had not gotten any assistance. The farmers are currently occupying a portion of land under the control of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL).

Minister Mustapha while reviewing a document one of the farmers presented

One of the farmers, Ricky, said they had received letters from NICIL about their occupancy of the lands and as such they took a decision to seek the Minister’s assistance with obtaining a lease for the land or any alternative lands for cattle grazing.

Ricky said the group has over 500 heads of cattle and would be grateful for the Ministry’s assistance in preparing part of the savannah for grazing, if they cannot obtain leases for the lands, they are currently occupying.

Another farmer noted after the Coalition closed the Wales estate, many persons who were given severance payment invested in cattle rearing, while others pursued farming.

In response to the issues raised, Minister Mustapha said he was informed that NICIL had issued letters to several persons in the area informing them that the number of leases is currently being reviewed.

“It is not my desire for NICIL to take away lands from farmers who would have invested money to develop farms and other things, but that can only be NICIL’s decision because that is a different entity from the Ministry of Agriculture. Those lands belonged to GuySuCo but when the previous administration closed the estates, the assets were transferred to NICIL, and the liabilities were left with GuySuCo in an effort to completely destroy GuySuCo.

Minister Mustapha and other officials during the meeting

While we were in Opposition, we made it clear that we would reopen the closed estates, with the exception of Wales because that estate was left in a state of no return. This is why we said that as an alternative, we’ll create the Wales Development Authority to ease some of the burdens brought on when the estate was closed,” Minister Mustapha said.

The Minister pledged that his office would engage NICIL on the issue.

“My officers will engage NICIL to see what lands are available for you. As soon as we can identify this portion of land, I’m willing to make the necessary machinery available to develop those lands. I cannot say when that will happen, but I’m urging you to have your group registered.

Once that process is completed and you have your registration, make an application for an allocation and we will engage NICIL to see how fast a suitable portion of land could be identified and made available,” Minister Mustapha said.

The Minister also told the group if they do not obtain leases for the lands, they are currently occupying, he would work with them and the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission to designate a portion of the savannah to be developed into a pasture.

Some of the cattle farmers who attended the meeting

Minister Mustapha also told the group the Government is focused on bringing economic development to Wales but at the same time, it is also promoting the expansion of the cattle industry. He further explained that only recently a pronouncement was made about developing Guyana’s cattle industry.

Additionally, the farmers also sought assistance with road repairs, providing electricity and potable water to the community. Minister Mustapha committed to engaging his colleague Ministers on the issues.

Ahead of today’s meeting, the farmers contacted Minister Mustapha to discuss their concerns.

Following their exchange, Minister Mustapha instructed the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Livestock Development Authority, Dr. Dwight Walrond to visit the area. A report was later compiled and submitted to the Minister.