Gov’t to engage GRMA on paddy prices – Agri Minister tells Region Two farmers
– farmers who suffered losses due to inclement weather to receive assistance
Agriculture Minister, Honourable Zulfikar Mustapha on Tuesday, traveled to the Essequibo Coast to meet with farmers to discuss some of the issues affecting the agriculture sector.
The crowd, which consisted mostly of rice farmers, gathered at the Rice Producers Association (RPA) bond at Anna Regina and were given an opportunity to engage the minister and his team.
While a small group of farmers chose to exit the meeting before directly engaging the visiting team, scores of farmers and residents took the opportunity to sit down with the minister to raise their concerns.
One farmer told the minister that although the government has been investing heavily to improve the infrastructure and offer assistance in the form of flood relief, seed paddy, and fertilisers, many farmers still need assistance with going back to the land.
“We’ve lost our crop. Some put in the crop; some managed to get the crop to the reaping stage and didn’t get to reap; some put in and it flood out and they didn’t see nothing,” the farmer explained.
While responding to the farmer’s concerns, Minister Mustapha explained that he was aware several farmers suffered losses due to unfavourable weather patterns and that the government will be putting systems in place to ensure those farmers are given assistance to return to the land as soon as possible.
“I have a list with the names of farmers who lost as a result of the weather. We are looking at it and we will see how best we can assist them to go back to the land as soon as possible,” the minister noted.
While pointing out that the price of paddy for the current crop was a burning concern for many farmers, especially in Region Two, Minister Mustapha said he will soon meet with the Guyana Rice Millers’ Association to discuss the matter.
“The main issue today seems to be the price for paddy. Only about 22,000 acres were planted in Region Two for this crop. I will be meeting with the Guyana Rice Millers’ Association on Friday to see if farmers can get better prices for paddy, especially in Region Two. When that meeting is finished, I will communicate with the farmers,” he explained.
While expressing his disappointment with the behaviour of the few who appeared to have a premeditated agenda and attempted to disrupt the meeting, Minister Mustapha said rice farmers have benefitted from a lot of assistance since the government took office in August 2020.
“Since we got back into government, we’ve been trying our best. Many farmers right here on the Essequibo Coast received direct cash payments and seed paddy when we had the flood in 2021. Last crop when the price was low, farmers said that they were not happy and we intervened, and many farmers received $4,000 per bag for paddy last crop. I am very shocked at this behaviour because when farmers were told rice was a private business, they never behaved in this manner. Now we are here to listen to you and work to find solutions to your issues a few are trying to disrupt the meeting. We have to be factual. I am here to listen to you to see how best we can resolve the issues,” he said.
The minister also disclosed that the government will continue to rehabilitate critical infrastructure so that farmers can have access to transport their paddy from the fields.
“This year again, $25 million will be made available to rehabilitate dams in Region Two from the Ministry of Agriculture so that farmers can bring out their paddy. The Water Users’ Association has $10 million. The seed facility here, I’ve asked GRDB to refurbish it so that we can start producing seed paddy in time for the next crop. Some rice farmers gave me a list with a number of issues so that we can sit down as a team and go through them point by point. For instance, things like zero rated on certain machinery and parts; there are still a number of spare parts that attract VAT because they are also used outside of the sector. We have to work with the GRA to deal with that,” he explained.