There is no handout to rice farmers

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…says Minister Ramsammy
AGRICULTURE Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy yesterday made clear his disagreement with A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Member of Parliament, Keith Scott’s contention that the $500M allocation to the rice sector is an unnecessary handout to farmers and the rice industry.Ramsammy said in a statement, “I disagree with Mr. Keith Scott that the allocation of $500M to the rice sector is a handout to rice farmers. I reject outright any assertion that the rice farmers do not deserve any support. The PPP/C Government will stand with rice farmers and we will continue to build a strong rice industry.”
The rice industry contributes about 5 per cent of GDP in Guyana and accounts for more than US$240M in export earnings. More than 40,000 people directly depend on the rice industry for livelihood and the industry provides employment for more than 20,000 people.
According to the Minister, in terms of food security, rice has helped to secure Guyana’s status as a food-secure country.
“Mr. Scott is politically motivated, and I can understand that he has to try to find a political slant. In retrospect, I am certain Mr. Scott would regret his words,” Minister Ramsammy said, adding:
“However, Mr. Scott should know that the PPP/C Government assisted farmers last year in securing more affordable fertilisers that saved the industry almost $800M.
“This year, we have already begun negotiation to procure about $800M worth of fertilisers that will help to keep cost down for farmers. We hope that this injection will help save about $1B overall in fertiliser acquisition cost. This injection of funds will assist in ensuring that cost of production is further reduced.
“In addition, we will procure a number of laser levellers to locate in Regions 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 to help increase yields.
“Further, we will expand our research facilities to introduce higher yielding seed paddy. This year we will spend about $70M to operationalise the Number 56 Seed Facility and to introduce a larger storage capacity for the industry.”
Ramsammy reiterated his rejection of the notion that the $500M allocation to the industry is a handout.
“We will strenuously reject all efforts to cut the rice allocation. Mr. Scott has revealed a sinister intention of APNU and I call on the RPA (Guyana Rice Producers ‘Association) and rice farmers to reject this position. I call on the AFC to demonstrate that they are no poodle of APNU and to join me in rejecting Mr. Scott’s handout shame.”
The rice industry is projected to grow by a moderate one per cent this year, with a production target of 540,793 tonnes, coming off the bumper crop of 2013.
By Vanessa Narine