Rice farmers in Region Two continue to call for more external markets for and satisfactory grading of their produce, early payment from millers, removal of VAT from agricultural equipment and changes to the rice Factory Act.
These concerns which have been plaguing the industry for years were once again raised during a meeting with the Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder and officials from the Ministry, during a meeting on Friday (February 24, 2017).
To address the many concerns and ensure a level playing field, the Government is considering becoming involved in milling.
“It is something we are seriously considering at the moment. It is something which was done in the past and had been successful and it is something I know will be beneficial…We did it when the price for fertilizer had skyrocketed and immediately forced the reduction in price from 10,000 to 4000 per bag of fertilizer,” the Minister stated.
According to a statement from the Agriculture Ministry, the engagement in Region Two was part of a two-day outreach exercise in the Region specifically to address some of the pressing agricultural issues.
It is the farmers’ view that the current Rice Factory Act needs to be upgraded since the current one safeguards the millers as opposed the rice farmers.
In relation to payment for paddy, one farmer noted that the millers in Region Two have been making it a habit of not paying.
General Manager (ag), Mr. Khuldip Ragnauth and Quality Control Manager of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), Ms. Allison Peters explained that the mandate of the Board is to regulate the functions of the industry, as opposed to representing farmers on non-payment issues. This they said is the mandate of the Rice Producers Association (RPA) which should be the entity ‘policing’ the system to ensure Millers are compliant.
However, Agriculture Minister, Holder also committed to initiating a PR campaign which will put pressure on millers to ensure they keep their end of the bargain.
Drainage and irrigation issues were also addressed including the cleaning of the Cozier canal.
Mr. Fredrick Flatts, Chief Executive Officer of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA), in giving clarity, pointed out that in irrigation work, it is done from the front working its way to the back; however, when it comes to drainage works, the right way is clearing from back, working their way to the front.
The clarity was well received by farmers as the CEO encouraged the residents to continue to be vigilant by monitoring works carried out, as they are the immediate beneficiaries and substandard work, will only hamper they livelihood.
Also accompanying the Minister was Regional Executive Officer, Mr. Rupert Hopkinson, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. George Jervis, Deputy Permanent Secretary (Finance), Ms. Prema Roopnarine, Chief Executive Officers of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA), National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) and Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA), Chief Fisheries Officer, Denzil Roberts, Chief Hydromet Officer (ag), Dr. Garvin Cummings among others.