Gov’t slashes transport costs for Wakenaam rice farmers

─approximately $3.5M in savings time be recorded
─farmers praise the historic subsidies

The Government has agreed to new transportation subsidies for rice farmers of Wakenaam Island to help mitigate the economic hardship incurred by COVID-19.

Minister within the Ministry of Public Works, Hon. Deodat Indar, on Friday met Wakenaam rice farmers to hammer out an agreement during a community consultation.

“Government, led by Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, is doing this for the farmers… [We] will reduce the cost by half if they’re taking it to Essequibo and it will be one-third the cost if they’re taking it to Parika,” Minister Indar said.

The Transport and Harbours Department (THD) within the Ministry of Public Works will facilitate the subsidy by allowing rice on the island to be transported aboard one of its vessels.

This subsidy is only effective for the current crop of rice, and has been instituted after years of pleas to the Government of Guyana for assistance.

Mr. Jitinger Ramkisoon, one of the largest rice farmers in Leguan said, “I really appreciate it because it has been tough for us to get the paddy off the island and it’s very expensive.”

The farmer told DPI a private barge would usually transport the island’s paddy at a high cost. With the subsidies, the farmer plans to reinvest the money saved into growing his business.

“I can plant some more rice. I can buy some more machines to make the work easier,” Mr. Ramkissoon added.

For Mr. Terry Singh, a rice farmer for 20 years, the savings will be put towards planting additional rice crops.

Also, a farmer for two decades, Mr. Balram Rampersaud praised the initiative and simultaneously issued his dissatisfaction in the APNU-AFC’s posture towards rice farmers while in Government.

“Under the previous Government we had no subsidies for rice. In the PPP Government, if you lose your crop, you get things and subsidies. It’s either you get seed paddy [or] you get chemicals, or some fuel and something, but for the five years past by, nothing,” Mr. Rampersaud explained.

Meanwhile, Regional Councillor, Mr. Aseef Ahmad, described Government’s decision as unprecedented. He said the subsidies will allow the farmers to save a whopping $3.5million.

The decision to allow THD to extend vessel operations on the island from two days to five was also seen as a great stimulus to economic activity in the face of the pandemic.

“That would enhance transportation of products from Wakenaam to Georgetown and other destinations and enhance our ability to trade, in terms of bringing in more wholesale products,” the Regional Councillor posited.

“We have seen a lot of movements apace in terms of the two months that Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali is in Government. We have seen our President and his Ministers; all the Regional Chairmen and councillors are on the ground. They are moving services to the people and that is what should happen in a country,” Councillor Ahmad stated.

Regional Chairman, Mr. Ishan Ayube also extended his gratitude towards the Administration for responding to the needs of the farmers.

Friday’s relief for Wakenaam farmers did not occur in a vacuum. Rather, it complements the host of measures included in the 2020 emergency budget for the agricultural sector.

Some of those measures are a $9 billion allocation for drainage and irrigation; VAT removals and key inputs in the poultry sector and on agriculture machinery; and the phased reopening of the Enmore, Rose Hall and Skeldon Sugar Estates.

The Ministry of Agriculture was allocated $18.4 billion under the emergency budget.

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