Rice farmers call for better paddy prices

… Mustapha says Rice Board will engage millers soon


Rice farmers continue to agitate for better paddy prices as they grapple with higher input costs and Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha says that representatives of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) will soon meet with millers to determine prices for the current crop.

Mustapha said this when he met with rice farmers in Region Two (Pomeroon- Supenaam) on Tuesday at the Rice Producers’ Association bond in Anna Regina.

According to a release from the Agriculture Ministry, farmers raised several concerns during that meeting. Losses due to persistent rainfall, paddy prices and financial assistance were among those concerns.

Minister Mustapha said that the government will work with the farmers through the GRDB to offer assistance to those who were affected by rainfall.

He also told farmers that representatives from the GRDB will soon meet with millers to discuss paddy prices for the current crop.

Despite assurances from the Agriculture Minister, farmers who attended the meeting voiced their concerns over prices already put out by millers.

“We had a very difficult time to plant and still now, to this date, when the rice start to bear, some gon harvest soon, we can’t know what we working for.

“Last crop, (paddy was sold) at $4,000 per bag (but now) some mills got up $3,500 per bag,” rice farmer Andrian Wellington said on Tuesday.

A rice farmer raising a concern with Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha (Photo: Ministry of Agriculture/ February 21, 2023)

Another farmer, called Cat Eye, also lamented that farmers are about to reap their rice but some millers have not yet told them how much they will be paid. As such, he and other farmers are concerned that they will get lower prices.

Fizul Khan, another farmer who attended the meeting, said they are only getting about $60,000 to $65,000 per acre of rice. This sum, he said, is low compared to the amount invested in fertilisers and other inputs.

Mustapha, however, recognised the rising costs of production and said the government will provide much-needed support to the farmers. He highlighted that funds were allocated in the 2023 National Budget to do dam upgrades to assist with transporting their crops for the fields. Those works will be executed soon.

Paddy prices have been a concern of farmers over the past year. Earlier in February, rice farmers met with Mustapha and requested government’s support for an across-the-board standard price.

Mustapha, however, said doing so may be challenging particularly since there are different costs (such as transportation) associated with production rice in each region.

Before that meeting, farmers took other actions to get better paddy prices.

Last year, aggrieved rice farmers from Black Bush Polder, Corentyne, were paid $65,000 per tonne of paddy rice after the government was forced to intervene to put an end to the recent protest actions in Region Six.

A move by millers to drop the paddy price from $70,000 to $65,000 then to $60,000 sparked outrage and saw scores of rice farmers blocking the main access roads to Lesbeholden and Johanna in protest. The rice farmers cited the sharp rise in the cost of living and their inability to keep up with increasing fertiliser prices.

Additionally, rice farmers from Region Two protested for an increase in paddy price and Minister Mustapha announced that the price will only increase by $200.

Then, Mustapha assured that farmers who already took their crop to the mills and were offered $3,500 – a decrease of $600 compared to the last crop – will now receive the $3,700 retroactively. But this price is only for grade ‘A’ paddy.

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