…Gov’t to provide financial support to affected Essequibo farmers
THE Agriculture Ministry has again stepped in to bring relief to rice farmers from Region 2, who are collectively owed close to $29M by the Mahaicony Rice Mill and its agents.
Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud, during a meeting with the farmers at his office at the weekend, said that the ministry, through the Rice Producers’ Association (RPA) and the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), has been engaging the farmers over the last seven to eight months with the hope that the Mahaicony Rice Mill would have cleared its debt; however, the company is not living up to its commitment, and is mistreating farmers and disrespecting the rice industry as a whole.
He disclosed that by next week, farmers will be able to access some amount of finances. Moreover, the farmers will be authorising the RPA to pursue Arnold Sankar from the Mahaicony Rice Mill to recoup the money which will be used to reimburse the association, as well as recover the balance owed to them.
Further, two assets, one at Vilvoorden, Region 2, and the other at Black Bush Polder, Region 6, that were pledged by Mahaicony Rice Mill to a financial institution, have now moved to the court, as a result of failure to service that debt.
“We await the court’s deliberations and I do hope that it deals with this matter with some level of expediency,” Minister Persaud stated.
Other actions taken against the company include the denial of a licence to purchase or export rice, and the acquisition of a court injunction barring its major player from leaving the country.
“From the financial institution and GRDB standpoint, we have exhausted all the legal options in this regard, and we are also looking at ways through which we can assist affected farmers…the Mahaicony Rice Mill has made itself unfit to do business with and is harmful to the rice trade in this country,” the minister said.
He also explained that there is no legal obligation from the government or the RPA to make this intervention; however, government is committed to making representation on behalf of farmers, especially since the judiciary is not moving as swiftly as it should to address this matter.
Government has recently moved to Parliament to toughen laws that seek to protect the rights of farmers in the rice industry.
RPA General Secretary Dharamkumar Seeraj reminded the farmers that the rice industry is the only sub-sector in the agriculture sector that has received so much support over the years, and said, “We are going into debt to pay off someone else’s debt to farmers.”
Farmers also expressed concerns with regard to the process of grading paddy for moisture content, and Minister Persaud called on the GRDB to recruit more temporary workers to facilitate a much needed 24-hour shift system to ensure that farmers are not ripped off.
Earlier this year, Government made an intervention that resulted in a large amount of affected farmers benefitting from a financial facility amounting to over $424M. (GINA)