Gov’t says hike in MMA rates necessary
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Agriculture Minister Noel Holder
Agriculture Minister Noel Holder

 

AMID protest actions, the Ministry of Agriculture on Wednesday said that new rates for land rentals at the Mahaica/Mahaicony/Abary Development Authority are necessary and also slammed the move by the Rice Producers’ Association (RPA) to ratchet-up resistance against the move.

In a statement issued on Wednesday the ministry said that the protest action by cash crop, rice and cattle farmers of Region Five is a cause for concern.

“For the past 18 years, farmers were required to pay $2500 per acre annually despite the increasing cost of material and supplies in the provision of D&I services by the MMA/ADA. Despite such a low cost for land and drainage and irrigation services provided by the State, some sections of farmers were still not keeping their end of the agreement, by paying their lease rates as stipulated by the Mahaica/Mahaicony and Abary Agricultural Development Authority (MMA/ADA) Act.”

As such, the ministry said this has hampered the Authority from executing planned works outlined in its work programme with the most important being the completion of MMA Phases 2 and 3.

“In this year’s budget the MMA received $357M from Central Government, as the Authority in view of the existing D&I rates and land rent charges is unable to meet its operating cost,” the ministry stated.

According to the ministry the MMA- a statutory agency under the aegis of the Ministry of Agriculture- is required to provide drainage and irrigation services within the MMA/ADA area, as laid out in the Authority’s Act. The areas which fall under the MMA’s purview are:- Abary/Berbice, Abary/Mahaicony and Mahaica/Mahaicony.

Agriculture Minister Noel Holder remains adamant that the increase in rates is not an unfair move, but one which is necessary to finance the services being provided by the Authority and to ensure that it doesn’t become another GuySuCo’s draining the country’s coffers.

“The budgetary appropriations received for D&I services in these blocks cannot offset the currently high cost for maintenance of its structures…As such, the MMA has faced serious challenges in meeting the expenditure required to provide these critical services since the charges fixed were too low,” the minister explained.

The ministry said drainage and irrigation charges have remained the same for almost two decades, despite escalating costs for fuel, spares for machinery, equipment, building materials and wages for the Authority’s workers. The benefits of extensive infrastructural and other works provided to the area by the MMA are evident in the fact that the areas production has doubled, the ministry stated.

“Unlike the other blocks, those between the Mahaica and Mahaicony rivers do not pay for D&I services and it is now proposed that charges be instituted…Indeed, the MMA area now produces approximately half of the national rice production and its cattle population is considerably larger than the other regions. It is therefore only fair that farmers pay the economic cost of the services provided,” Minister Holder said.

Over two years ago, two critical drainage pumps in the Trafalgar area were vandalised and the MMA was unable to have the structures fixed due to lack of available funds. Central Government was required to provide a subvention to off-set the expenses in 2015 due to the importance drainage plays in the region and to prevent excessive flooding in the Union, Tempie and Trafalgar villages.

The following is a breakdown of D&I charges by area:-

Drainage and Irrigation charges

Description of Area Existing rates per acre per year Proposed rates per acre per year Cost Per Month  
Abary/Berbice Block

 

Profit to Rosignol Villages

 

 

 

$2,500

 

 

 

$8,000

 

 

 

$666

Abary/Mahaicony Block

 

Mahaicony/Abary Rice development

 

 

 

$1,241

 

 

 

$7,000

 

 

 

$583

Mahaicony/Mahaica Block

 

All lands between the sea coast to Biabu/Grasshook Junction on the R.B Mahaica River and to the Wash Clothes/E.J Junction L.B Mahaicony River

 

All lands in the 4th, 5th, 6th , and extra depths in the area described above

 

 

 

 

NIL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NIL

 

 

 

 

$5,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

$5,000

 

 

 

 

$416

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

$416

 

 

 

 

Land Rent charges

In 1998, land rent charges for pasturage were fixed at $1,000 per acre annually. The Rice Farmers (Security of Tenure) Act Chap. 69:02 sets out the guidelines for basic rental and are expressed in bags (14 llb) per acre which is five percent of the quantity of paddy produced in one two crop year.

The Calculation are outlined below:-

Rice yield (national average)                               = 35 bags per acre per crop

5 percent of yields (By 2 crops per year)              = 3.5 bags

3.5 x $2000 per bag                                                  = $7000 per acre ($583 per month)

In addition, it has been established that the basic rent for land for pasture is 20 percent of the rent for rice lands. Therefore, the rents livestock farmers are being asked to pay will be $1400 per acre annually or $117 per month. “These rates are not exorbitant and yet some farmers are of the view that they should not pay the increased rates being asked to enable the MMA to provide effective drainage and irrigation services which are critical for development to take place, the minister said.

On Thursday last, the agriculture minister led a team on an outreach exercise to the Mahaica, Mahaicony and Abary areas where discussions were held on a number of issues with the increase in land rates taking center stage. The issue was addressed, with farmers only then understanding the fees being asked to pay each month by the MMA/ADA. The Ministry of Agriculture is calling on farmers to be responsible in their judgment and for all players to work together in the best interest of the sector.

 

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