The Ministry of Agriculture is intensifying efforts to increase land rates, and to recoup billions of dollars outstanding for land rates and irrigation fees owed to the Mahaica, Mahaicony Abary Agriculture Development Authority (MMA/ADA).
Information emanating from the Ministry of Agriculture indicates that a white paper seeking Cabinet’s approval to increase the cost of land rentals in the Region 5 agricultural scheme, has been submitted by Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder.
According to General Manager of the MMA/ADA, Aubrey Charles, “Currently it (fees) range between $400 per acre to $2500 per acre, per year, depending on the level (of service provided). In some areas we only provide drainage; this attracts a lower charge, for drainage and irrigation you pay more, let’s say $600, then you have drainage and irrigation, primary with secondary irrigation. Once you are getting all of those things you pay at the max $2500 per acre per year,” Charles said.
Previously, Minister Holder said the rates being paid by rice farmers for the services provided by the agricultural scheme are archaic and should be adjusted to real terms if the scheme is to be expanded.
“There has been no attempt to keep the rates of land rent and the cost of drainage and irrigation or the pay for the cost of drainage and irrigation in line with inflation. The result of that is where MMA used to be a source of income to the government, it’s now taking money out of the government to survive; $ 237M out of the budget for this year. We have to look at raising rates to the proper levels,” the Minister told the Government Information Agency (GINA).
Meanwhile there continues to be reports of lessees sub-letting lands at a rate that is more than 16 times what is being charged by the MMA. Minister Holder said this is a breach of their agreement.
“Some of these people are also renting that land for $40000 a year, $20000 per crop and that money is going not into the kitty. That is ridiculous and also illegal by the way. The Act doesn’t allow that, and the leases they have don’t allow sub-letting,” Holder explained.
Recently, Charles said plans are in train to ensure farmers in the Mahaica Mahaicony area pay for the use of MMA lands and drainage and irrigation fees as required by law since much work has been done in those areas by the agricultural authority.