Berbice rice farmers decry condition of access dams
…as Police clamps down on muddy tractors, grain carts
Already being plagued by late pumping of water into the cultivation area, farmers in Berbice are now being charged for emptying their grain carts on the road shoulders along with muddy tractors on the roadways. In addition, they are also being asked to have those grain carts registered to a tractor.
This, the farmers say, is almost counterproductive since one tractor will service several grain carts. According to the rice farmers who operate on the Upper Corentyne, during harvesting, they borrow other farmer’s grain carts when they are reaping and lend their carts to other farmers when those farmers are reaping their paddy.
Farmers, in objecting to the move by the Police to charge them, said that had the access dams not been in a deplorable state, they would not be forced to use the road shoulders to empty their grain carts.
On Tuesday the farmers met with the 52/74 Water Users Association to discuss the issue.
According to Soondat Hardat, who farms at Numbers 64 and 65 Villages, he has been stopped from discharging his paddy from the grain cart to his trucks on the road shoulder.
He explained that they are forced to carry out the operation on the road shoulder because the trucks cannot go into the dams and have to wait for the carts to bring the paddy out.
The dams, he explained, are inaccessible to trucks.
He appealed to the regional administration to make the access dams into all-weather roads so that they can be able to take their trucks into the backdam.
Also attending the meeting was Regional Vice Chairman Dennis DeRoop who said he could not make a commitment to the farmers.
Meanwhile, Sudishwar Dyal, who farms between Numbers 64 and 66 Villages, claims the Police are after them while on the road taking their tractors from the field. There are also reports of Police firing shots at one farmer, who crossed the road with a tractor from the field and was going into his street. The farmer allegedly saw the Cops and abandoned his tractor and ran. Gunshots were fired at him.DeRoop said he contacted the Divisional Commander, Assistant Commissioner Linden Alves, who assured him that he will instruct ranks to allow the farmers for the next three weeks that the cultivation period is expected to last.
Tractors coming onto the roadway with their cage wheels deposit large portions of mud on the roadways, endangering the safety of road users.
Meanwhile, acting Chairman of the 52/74 Water Users Association, Yuaisthir Lutchminhauth said something must be done urgently.
“Because of the Police, the farmers can’t come out with their tractor and the cart. As soon as you come out, is the Police and you have to pay s bribe or something for them to lose you to go back in for your paddy. It is only one trip per day they can make to come out on the road. When you come out and if a Policeman hold you, the paddy leff because the whole day done dea. Then sometimes the night is rain so the next day you can’t go back for you paddy so it leff they again.”
About 15,000 acres of paddy is being planted in the 52/72 area. And about two-thirds have already been harvested.
Lutchminhauth added that they should have been almost to the end of the harvesting process and blames the regional administration for the plight the rice farmers are facing. He noted that had the administration started pumping water late thus contributing to the late sowing. Had this not occurred, he added, then the farmers would not have been having altercations with the law enforcement officers.
The current crop, he added, should be completed within a three-week time frame. “The rain start. April 2, and since then is almost every single day we getting rain. The combines only getting to cut about two hours every day. Because of the weather, you can’t get a full day from them.”
According to the water users Chairman, had they gone into the crop as planned at the start of the year, they would have harvested an average of 95 per cent of the crop compared with 65 per cent currently. (Andrew Carmichael)