Increased land rates at MMA/ADA necessary to avoid another GuySuCo- Agri. Minister

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The Agriculture Ministry has deemed the protest by rice farmers, cash crop and cattle farmers at the Mahaica, Mahaicony, Abary/Agriculture Development Authority’s (MMA/ADA) office on Tuesday (January 17, 2017), “a cause for concern, and a move which (it) deems ‘unfortunate.”

The farmers held a massive protest against what they termed “draconian” increase for land rental and drainage and irrigation by MMA/ADA in front of the MMA/ADA’s office at Onverwagt, West Coast Berbice (W.C.B) to voice their concerns. The farmers turned up with placards including “no increase until paddy price increase” and “Holder must go”.

In a statement on Wednesday (January 18, 2017), the Agriculture Minister however, did not heed the farmer’s concerns but rather 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.”

The statement outlined 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 D&I services by the Authority. Additionally, the Ministry is alleging that despite such a low cost, some sections of farmers were still not keeping their end of the agreement, by paying their lease rates.

As such, the Ministry says this has hampered the Authority from executing planned works outlined in its work program.

In this year’s budget, the MMA received $357M from Central Government which along with the existing D&I rates and land rent charges, will be unable to meet its operating cost.

“Unlike the other blocks, those between the Mahaica and Mahaicony rivers do not pay for D&I services and it is now proposed that charges be instituted…Indeed the MMA area now produces approximately half of the national rice production and its cattle population is considerably larger than the other regions. It is therefore only fair that farmers pay the economic cost of the services provided” Minister Holder said.

Added to its usual operating cost, the MMA is expected to complete two critical drainage pumps in the Trafalgar area which were vandalized but the Authority was unable to have the structures fixed due to lack of available funds.

Drainage and Irrigation charges as provided by the Ministry

Description of Area Existing rates per acre per year Proposed rates per acre per year Cost Per Month
Abary/Berbice Block

 

Profit to Rosignol Villages

 

 

 

$2,500

 

 

 

$8,000

 

 

 

$666

Abary/Mahaicony Block

 

Mahaicony/Abary Rice development

 

 

 

$1,241

 

 

 

$7,000

 

 

 

$583

Mahaicony/Mahaica Block

 

All lands between the sea coast to Biabu/Grasshook Junction on the R.B Mahaica River and to the Wash Clothes/E.J Junction L.B Mahaicony River

 

All lands in the 4th, 5th, 6th , and extra depths in the area described above

 

 

 

 

NIL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NIL

 

 

 

 

$5,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

$5,000

 

 

 

 

$416

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

$416

 

 

 

 

Land Rent charges as provided by the Ministry

In 1998, land rent charges for pasturage were fixed at $1,000 per acre annually. The Rice Farmers (Security of Tenure) Act Chap. 69:02 sets out the guidelines for basic rental and are expressed in bags (14 llb) per acre which is five percent of the quantity of paddy produced in one two crop year.

The Calculation provided by the Ministry are outlined below:-

Rice yield (national average)                               = 35 bags per acre per crop

5 percent of yields (By 2 crops per year)              = 3.5 bags

3.5 x $2000 per bag                                                  = $7000 per acre ($583 per month)

In addition, it has been established that the basic rent for land for pasture is 20 percent of the rent for rice lands. Therefore, the rents livestock farmers are being asked to pay will be $1400 per acre annually or $117 per month.

The MMA- a statutory agency under the aegis of the Ministry of Agriculture  is required to provide Drainage and Irrigation services within the MMA/ADA area; as laid out in the Authority’s Act. The areas which falls under the MMA preview are:- Abary/Berbice, Abary/Mahaicony and Mahaica/Mahaicony.

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