“Although D&I, land rental charges were reduced, MMA is earning more because more farmers are paying their fees” – Min. Mustapha
Following a series of interventions to reduce the burdens placed on the back of the nation’s farmers by the then APNU/AFC Government, the PPP/C Administration will, in 2022, be able to execute maintenance projects in the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary Agriculture Development Authority (MMA-ADA) at a fraction of what was spent last year.
This was disclosed by Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha, while responding to questions from the opposition during the consideration of budget estimates and expenditure last Tuesday.
When questioned as to why there was a significant decrease in the Authority’s allocated amount of government funding to execute maintenance works, Minister Mustapha said the agency is in a better position financially to fund some of the projects that form part of its 2022 work programme.
“When we took office in 2020, the entire drainage system in MMA was clogged up. All of the canals were clogged up. The first time I went to Cabinet as Minister, I requested $90 million to carry out emergency works in the MMA scheme. Since then, over 1,500 miles of canals and drains have been cleaned. Added to that, with the reduction in cost for land rentals and drainage and irrigation charges from $15,000 to $3,500 (per acre), the farmers from the MMA scheme have been saving more and paying their fees. This intervention by the government has fostered a better relationship with the farmers, thus resulting in higher revenue collection for the Authority. This is why we are now in a position where we can give less subvention to MMA. Similar to other entities, we are seeing that the MMA is relying less on government subventions because we are getting the buy-in from farmers so that a collaborative effort can be put forward to develop these sectors,” Minister Mustapha said.
Elaborating on the achievement of the Authority, Minister Mustapha said that it was important to develop a sound partnership with the beneficiaries in order to enhance the services offered in the scheme.
In 2021, $307 million was budgeted under this particular line item, whereas in 2022, only $154 million was sought for the programme – representing a 50 per cent reduction.
Back in October 2020, the MMA – ADA received $98 million to conduct urgent repairs on its infrastructure, including drainage and dams. The sum catered for the execution of works to clear agricultural land in Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice), which consisted of 252 drains. The project benefited approximately 96,000 acres of rice land in the area and over 2,300 farmers, families within the Abary-Berbice and the Mahaica-Mahaicony block.
As it relates to land rentals and drainage and irrigation charges, one of the immediate interventions of the government saw farmers nationwide benefiting from a reduction of their land rental and D&I fees from $15,000 per acre to $3,500 per acre.
Following the announcement of the massive increase back in January 2017, farmers took to the street in protest, expressing their dissatisfaction with the decision of the then Minister of Agriculture and the APNU/AFC Government to increase the rental fee from $3500 to $15,000 –a decision, which they said, was made without any consultation with the farmers or the body which represents them, the Rice Producers’ Association.
The MMA – ADA is the largest agriculture-producing scheme in the country.