“Grading officers will once again be stationed at all mills” Minister Mustapha tells Reg. 5 farmers

– GRDB to commence grading training this week
– machines to be deployed to carry out critical works in Mahaica Creek in the next three days
– rehabilitation works on Mahaicony farm to market access road to commence with emergency budget

Agriculture Minister, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha has instructed officials from the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) to put systems in place to ensure grading personnel are employed and stationed at all mills following complaints from rice farmers across the Coast about inconsistencies in the grading of rice at mills.

Minister Mustapha while addressing the gathering at Mahaica Creek

“We will work along with the Rice Producers’ Association (RPA), which is the primary body that looks after the interests of farmers, to have the necessary personnel trained by the GRDB and placed at all rice mills in the country. This will ensure rice farmers are treated fairly during the grading process,” Minister Mustapha said.

The Minister also informed the gathering that government will resume allocating subventions to the RPA to ensure it has the necessary resources to make representation for farmers.

A section of the gathering at Mahaica Creek

GRDB General Manager, Nizam Hassan, informed the farmers that arrangements were made with officials from the RPA and training is expected to commence in the coming week.

“It’s a short but very detailed exercise. The RPA has identified a number of persons to undergo training and once completed, these persons will be stationed at the various mills to ensure an appropriate grade for rice to both farmers and millers,” Mr. Hassan said.

Farmers also complained about inconsistencies in the scales at mills and asked the Minister look into it.

The Minister committed to contacting officials from the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) to have their officers conduct verification checks at the various rice mills.

Minister Mustapha also made other immediate interventions that resulted in a machine being deployed to the Region to carry out clearing of some critical drainage canals. Farmers from Mahaica area also expressed the desire to have phone lines and repairs to several sections of their roadways. Minister Mustapha told the residents he made contact with the Minister of Public Works and that he will be visiting the community tomorrow (Sunday) to listen to their concerns and put systems in place to ensure their issues are addressed.

The subject Minister also related to residents that budgetary allocations were made in the emergency budget to carry out critical works on the farm to market access road on the right bank of the Mahaicony River.

Further, the Agriculture Minister informed the farmers that other major works will be budgeted for in subsequent budgets as this year’s is an emergency budget to address urgent issues.

Rice farmers from Mahaicony Creek also complained about the inadequate drainage in the area.

Ramchan Bholagosien told the Minister he lost three rice crops because of the lack of drainage.

Ramchan Bholagosien

“It was very hard for me. I reached out to the Region and the NDIA and by the time they came it was too late,” Mr. Bholagosien said.

The Minister, in responding to the farmer, said he regards farmers as the most important section of society.

“Comrade, I hear you and I understand. Farmers were not treated well over the last five years. You are responsible for feeding the nation and if in the past you were not seen as important, today I am here to let you know that I see you as important,” Minister Mustapha said.

The subject Minister also mentioned that Government is in the process of developing a new land use policy to address the issue of regularising lands across the country.

Farmers also had queries about land rental payments. In 2017, the previous Government passed a bill that saw heavy increases to land rental fees and drainage and irrigation charges. The PPP/C Government, immediately after taking office, made good on its campaign promise to have the charges reversed to what it was before the previous Government took office.

Minister Mustapha distributing some seeds to an Abary Creek farmer

“When we were in Opposition, we advised farmers not to pay these steep increases. We have to meet and decide, at the level of Cabinet on whether we will make the reversal of payments retroactive,” Minister Mustapha said.

Minister Mustapha is expected to conduct several other outreaches to various farming communities during the course of the month.