Agriculture Minister Noel Holder has urged the Rice Producers Association (RPA) to step up its representation of rice farmers across the country and stop looking to the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) for hand outs.
Responding to complaints by long standing RPA President Leikha Rambrich that the RPA is no longer receiving reimbursements for services offered to rice farmers in the rice belt, Minister Holder said there is no provision for this in the law which established the RPA. He pointed out that the organisation should be more vibrant and proactive in its presentation of farmers and in this way be justified in the collection of membership fees.
This was in direct response to the RPA president’s reference to the discontinuation of a $2.5 million subsidy paid over to the RPA on a monthly basis under the previous administration.
The Agriculture Minister was at the time meeting with rice farmers and other stakeholders of East Berbice at Skeldon at which a number of issues were raised by farmers.
Farmers had lamented what they described as poor, and in some cases no representation by the legally mandated farmers’ group.
Minister Holder urged the RPA to engage in a membership drive and a formalisation of its representation – this was after more than half the farmers present at the meeting indicated that they were not members of the organisation having never filled out any membership forms or paid any fees in this regard.
In his organisation’s defence, the RPA president said that whether or not a rice farmer was a member his interest is always represented in a general sense. Mr Rambrich pointed to a ten-point proposal which he said his organisation has submitted to government on the way forward for the rice industry.
The Agriculture Minister assured that these proposals are currently under consideration.