MMA/ADA land rate increases fair-Minister Trotman
GINA, GUYANA, Thursday, January 19, 2017
Government says that Mahaica-Mahaicony-Abary/Agricultural Development Authority (MMA/ADA) land rent increases is fair, and that the increase revenue that will be garnered for the Authority will result in better delivery of services to the farmers.
Addressing the post-Cabinet press briefing at the Ministry of the Presidency today, Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman explained that for the greater part of a year, the Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder has been repeatedly saying to Cabinet that the fees currently being charged could not sustain the operations at MMA/ADA . “… We need to be clearing sluices. There are repeated complaints at Trafalgar of flooding, pumps are either being vandalised, (or) parts missing had to be replaced and so it was felt that there had to be some adjustments,” Minister Trotman explained.
The land rental increases implementation however has met with opposition from the Region Five farmers who on Wednesday staged a protest in front of the MMA/ADA office in Onverwagt, West Coast, Berbice.
Minister Trotman however pointed out that the increases are not excessive. “As I look at them, in one instance, one cost per month will now be $666, and in another instance it is going to cost per acre of land, $583 in another $416, so by no stretch of the imagination can we call these exorbitant,” the minister said. “I believe that everyone in the industry knew that the prices were unrealistic and could not sustain (the MMA) and whilst yes, they had to be raised we do not consider $416 for an acre of land to be unreasonable for a person who is earning and making a profit from that land,” the minister added.
The minister also noted the rising cost or expenses and fees for the government to undertake its responsibility of maintaining the lands. “That responsibility is more acute and must be discharged. So these fees will lead to better stewardship by the MMA authority to ensure that farmers can farm and get their produce from farm to market and can do so without severe or excessive losses by flooding or extensive dry season,” the minister said.
In a release issued on Wednesday, Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder had stated that the recent protest action by sections of Cash Crop, Rice and Cattles farmers of Region Five as a cause for concern, and a move which the Ministry of Agriculture deems ‘unfortunate’. The release had stated that for the past 18 years, farmers were required to pay $2500 per acre annually despite the increasing cost of material and supplies in the provision of drainage and Irrigation (D&I) services by the MMA/ADA. Despite such a low cost for land and drainage and irrigation services provided by the State, some sections of farmers were still not keeping their end of the agreement, by paying their lease rates as stipulated by the MMA/ADA Act the release stated.
As such, this has hampered the Authority from executing planned works outlined in its work programme with the most important being the completion of MMA Phases two and three.
The Agriculture Minister had stated that the increase in rates is not an unfair move, but one which is necessary to finance the services being provided by the Authority and to ensure that it doesn’t become another GuySuCo draining the country’s coffers.