Legal proceedings may soon be instituted against over 50 rice farmers of Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) over their failure to pay the increased rental fees and the drainage and irrigation charges, according to the People’s Progressive Party (PPP).
General Secretary of the Rice Producers Association (RPA), Dharamkumar Seeraj confirmed to the News Room that notices have already been issued to the farmers and the deadline to make the payments has already expired.
The letters were served by the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary Agricultural Development Authority (MMA/ADA) on March 4, 2018, giving the farmers 14 days to make the payment.
In a statement Wednesday night, the PPP condemned the move and vowed to represent the rice farmers if the matter reaches the courts.
“Rather than assist the rice industry, as we have demanded the Government to do, they are driving more nails into the coffin of the industry. To now threaten the rice farmers with litigation is simply callous and unconscionable,” the PPP contended.
The MMA/ADA had increased land rent from $1,000 per acre to $7,000 per acre and drainage and irrigation charges from $2,500 to $8,000.
According to the PPP, “many rice farmers say that were they to pay these new charges, they would have to stop cultivating because they simply cannot afford to sustain such high increase in expenditure at this point in time.”
Claiming that there is an “ongoing onslaught” against rice farmers, the PPP is calling on the government to immediately reverse the increases and to withdraw the notices.
According to the PPP, rice farmers are still struggling with the loss of the lucrative Venezuelan rice market and now they have to deal with the new taxes on agricultural equipment and other accessories needed in the industry.