Over $186M cleared in Agriculture supplementary funds
– emergency drainage works done in Regions Two, Three, Five
Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha has said emergency drainage and irrigation (D&I) works amounting to $186.3 million were done in several regions to preserve, principally, the rice crop.
The Minister made this disclosure at Monday’s sitting of the National Assembly as the House debated the Government’s request for supplementary funds. The National Assembly later approved the $17.4 billion supplementary budget.
Minister Mustapha said the funds spent on D&I were “to facilitate urgent repairs to agricultural access dams within Regions Two, Three and Five as well as to undertake urgent drainage works in the MMA/ADA areas of Region Five and to undertake additional activities such as repairs to agricultural dams and the sluice door at Grove/Diamond to mitigate flooding, resulting from a breach of the secondary sea dams at Dantzig, Region Five.”
In Mahaica-Berbice (Region Five) repairs had to be done to the dilapidated drainage structures, which were on the verge of bursting their fragile barriers and inundating rice and cash crops.
At Dantzig, Mahaicony, the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) did revetment works on a dam to prevent salt water intrusion, at a cost of $10,130,000.
Emergency work was also done at the Mahaica-Mahaicony-Abary-Agricultural Development Scheme (MMA-ADA), including the cleaning of several canals, at a cost of $29,808,000.
Minister Mustapha said this prevented the loss of some 37, 000 acres of rice. Some 22 acres in Abary-Mahaicony, 26,000 acres in Mahaica-Mahaicony area and 6,000 at Vendetta were also preserved.
“We are having demand for land in that Scheme, whereas before August, many farmers would have left the Scheme and go out because of dilapidated infrastructure.”
The works, coupled with the reduction of land rental fees to $3,500 from the $15,000 that was demanded under the Coalition Government, has been a major draw for farmers.
“The largest agriculture scheme, the MMA Scheme, that the former Government the APNU+AFC would have increased land rental and D&I charges by almost 600 per cent; they failed to execute any work in that Scheme. As a result of that, rice crops were threatened and we had to conduct emergency works,” Minister Mustapha explained.
Further, in justifying the sums paid for the works, after the reduction of fees, Minister Mustapha said consideration must be given to the Scheme’s importance to the sector.
“We have to look beyond the balance sheet when we look at these important agricultural schemes so that we could get more production and bring in more foreign exchange into our country.”
The Minister’s remark was in response to Opposition Member of Parliament, Hon. Khemraj Ramjattan’s query about why the subventions were paid by the State and not taken from the Scheme or from the rice farmers.
Emergency repairs were also conducted on access dams in Black Bush Polder, Good Hope, Number Three, Gibraltar, and Fryrish. Dams were also built at Leguan, Wakenaam and Grove/Diamond to the value of $30,271,000.
“Those dams were necessary for the farmers to bring out their produce. Also, with the high tides that we had and the neglects in these sluices, we had sluices doors that collapsed in Leguan, Wakenaam, Diamond and Number 51 Village and we had to do emergency work to repair those sluice doors there,” the Minister revealed.
The National Assembly cleared the additional sums for drainage and irrigation, which as submitted for consideration as part of Financial Paper No. 1/2020 – Supplementary Estimates (Current and Capital) totalled $792,330,925 for the period October 1, 2020 to December 21, 2020.