Rice farmers in Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) are finding it difficult to get their rice to more lucrative markets because of the state of the farm to markets roads in the region.
This newspaper was told that rice farmers have been forced to settle for more than $100,000 less in payment for their paddy since they cannot access the more lucrative markets.
Region Five is the largest rice-producing region in the country and the Burma Road is the access to 450 acres, while the Mahaicony Branch Road allows access to 25,000 acres of land. Over 800 rice farmers in the region use that road but they cannot get the full-needed service from it.
Regional Vice Chairman Rian Pieters was asked by this publication about the lack of initiative by the regional administration to assist rice farmers in region but he said the issue is not one the region can solve, neither can take blame for.
According to Pieters, it is not the regional administration to be blamed but rather the Finance Ministry. He said that the regional administration has been trying to get the roads fixed but the Finance Ministry has not allowed them.
“Over the past three or four years, the Regional Democratic Council would have included those Branch Roads— the Mahaicony Branch Road, Burma Branch Road and De Hoop Branch Road— as a part of the Region’s estimates for those years in our budget. I am disappointed to have to say that while the Regional Democratic Council would have approved those roads, our estimates, when our budget would have gotten to the Ministry of Finance, they were struck off of the final document over the past three or four occasions,” Pieters said.
Meanwhile, former Regional Chairman Bindrabhan Bisnauth, himself a rice farmer, told this publication that they are losing money because they are unable to take their paddy to preferred markets.
“We do not have access to get to any other mill. Because of the impassable state of the road, farmers are now caught between a hard rock and I do not know what else, but we do not have access to get to any other mills… And because of the competition, we as farmers are losing because we cannot compete for a better price”.
According to the former Regional Chairman, they are only getting $3,000 for a bag of paddy from the mill at Burma while other mills in the region are paying $3,100 per bag.
This means that farmers are losing well in excess of $30,000 for every ten acres of rice being cultivated.
Sookdeo Harrypaul of Champagne, Mahaicony is the owner of two trucks which he operates to take paddy from the field to the mill.
“A few farmers have been filling the road with sand so that the trucks could drive on the road for the past four crops; that is, two years, so that we can drive on the road because the road has been breaking up the truck springs… We are disgusted complaining! No one has been doing anything for us,” the truck owner told this publication.