$137M owed to Essequibo Rice Farmers
Rice Farmers along the Essequibo Coast are owed an estimated $137 million from millers for paddies supplied in the first crop of 2018, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
In a statement Thursday, Minister Noel Holder criticized the millers for the delay in payment, which is a violation of the Rice Factories Act.
Minister Holder also noted that it is a “clear demonstration of unfair business practices.”
According to the Ministry, businessman Wazir Hussain is the chief offender, accounting for 97% of the monies owed to the farmers.
During a recent outreach to the Cinderella County, Head of the Essequibo Paddy Producers’ Association, Naith Ram informed the Agriculture Minister of the situation which, he said, has resulted in many farmers scaling back significantly.
Minister Holder suggested that the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) withhold the licenses of the millers who have defaulted on their payments to rice farmers.
But Minister Holder says he does not have the authority to make the proposal to the GRDB.
“This has to be a Board policy. Mr. Ram, as a member of the GRDB Board of Directors, you can bring that suggestion to the table. The Minister cannot make that decision. It has to be a decision of the Board,” Minister Holder is quoted as saying.
Under the Rice Factories Act, farmers are also empowered to take the millers to court, but Ram says many are hesitant to do so.
“We have a Factory Act but farmers will not take millers to court because of fear of victimization by other millers. We have to devise another system – we have to take some firm action.
“How can a farmer who is not being paid sustain his family? We have to do something to help the situation in Region Two,” Ram expressed.
The law stipulates that milers are required to pay farmers half the amount due within two weeks of receiving the paddy and the remainder must be paid off within 42 days.