Govt engaging bilateral partner to reduce fertiliser costs – President Ali

His Excellency, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, on Friday informed rice farmers of Region Two of the government’s bilateral engagement to see a reduction in the cost of fertilisers.

The President made the disclosure during a meeting with the farmers at the region’s Rice Development Board.

The announcement by President Ali comes on the heels of increased prices for fertilisers which are vital to farmers. Dr Ali said the increased cost is due to the increase in price for natural gas, which is used to produce the fertiliser.

His Excellency, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali engages farmers in Essequibo on Friday

“I can tell you for fertilisers, we are almost there in getting an agreement that will bring down the price with a bilateral partner. I cannot say much more right now, because we are in our final stages of negotiations.

“When the gas to shore project comes, it is going to give us the ability to produce our own fertiliser. Every country that produces its own fertiliser, subsidises the agricultural sector with fertiliser. In five years’ time we will have that ability, but in the meantime, we are trying to work with a bilateral partner.

President Ali disclosed also that he has made direct contact with the President of Panama to assist farmers who are owed monies for rice shipment under the previous administration.

His Excellency, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali engages farmers in Essequibo on Friday

“We are working on a number of measures to further support the rice industry. We are discussing whether we can have a further cut on tax for diesel,” the President stated.

Already for the year, government has reduced tax on gasoline and diesel twice. That is in February and October, 2021. Added to that, the President disclosed that government is discussing a mechanism in which more excavators could be made available to help farmers with drainage, which will reduce production cost for farmers.

Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha, said since the last ministerial visit, a lot has happened in the agricultural sector. He said with the crafting of the next national budget, the region can expect more excavators to assist with their agricultural needs.

Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha addressing Essequibo Farmers

He also noted that 800 bags of paddy were given to farmers who had low yield even before the massive May/June flood.

Additionally, Minister Mustapha highlighted that government is developing better quality rice to boost production. He mentioned the bio-fortified rice which contains zinc, noting that trials are in the final stages with the expectation to start distribution to farmers next year.

“’There will be a lot of development in this sector…. We must ensure when we produce crops, we produce high value crops,” the Minister said.

Meanwhile, Senior Minister in the office of the President with responsibility for finance Dr. Ashni Singh said no other government has been more serious about promoting agriculture than the PPP/C Administration. He told farmers if they are to have a serious conversation, they have to be honest with the reality of the world economy and the state in which government inherited the agricultural sector.

He said since taking office, the government has spared no effort to assist farmers which could be seen in the removal of burdensome taxes on agricultural equipment, among other initiatives.

Senior Minister in the office of the President with responsibility for finance, Dr. Ashni Singh

“You have a government that is committed to bringing relief to you whenever we can,” Minister Singh assured farmers.

Shafeek Mohamed, a rice farmer, said the move by the President is a good initiative that shows the government is concerned about farmers.

“It is a good call by the government to try and assist the farmers where they can get the fertiliser cheaper because I know for a fact the price for fertilisers has gone up on the world market and shipping has gone up tremendously… if we do not get the yield, we are in trouble this crop with fertiliser gone up by almost 100 per cent. So, it is a good initiative by the government to intervene with the fertiliser situation,” he said.

Ghodeswar Hemraj who also welcomed the move. He said he cultivates 16 acres of land.  “That was a very good effort, we just have to see what will be the next step. We already sow, so we are looking forward to see if the fertiliser price will go down.”

The visit by President Ali, marks his fourth trip to the region since taking office, where he engaged residents to have issues affecting them addressed.