I want to congratulate His Excellency, President Dr Irfaan Ali, and his newly appointed cabinet, especially subject minister the Honourable Zufikar Mustapha, Minister of Agriculture, who I know will bring a lot of newness, experience and energy to that ministry.
The General Manager and Deputy General Manager of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) should do the dignified thing and resign, or be investigated and fired for all the wrongdoings, serious mismanagement of funds, gross dereliction of duty, and very disturbing state in which they led the rice industry and the Rice Research Station at Burma.
Many farmers, like I have done, have carefully watched and helplessly witnessed that no good can ever come out of the rice industry under the watch of those two politically-appointed managers. The facts are glaring, as are the display of clear actions in support of their former political masters (APNU+AFC). If you look, you would see that since they took office, they speedily discontinued the National Paddy Bug Management Unit. This was set up by the PPP/C Government, and had a dedicated $110 million funding put aside for conducting comprehensive studies to properly understand the bug and develop comprehensive strategies for its control in Guyana.
Now, five years after, we still have paddy bugs ripping the industry apart, because this programme was terminated. We see, in the run-up to the 2020 election, that they started a spray programme two crops ago, in which millions were spent as a political tool, or putting a plaster on the sore, with no substantial relief. This programme was carried out in some selected regions, and truly lacked transparency, with few selected farmers benefiting. Much more needs to be done on the paddy bug infestation, so the rice industry can stay alive.
There was a modernisation plan for the research station. I was told that that was started by the PPP/C administration. This was discontinued. The evidence is there, you would see that the staff housing quarters are in a deplorable state, stepa are falling off buildings, rain wetting staff, and houses are poorly maintained in the research compound; laboratory facilities are grossly neglected, with numerous electrical and other defects, and all infrastructure at the Research Station was left to run down to the ground.
Likewise, the poor maintenance policies regarding machinery, equipment and vehicles at the Research Station is known and evident. These and many more caused the research programme to suffer tremendously due to inadequate funding to purchase basic items.
Another big problem is the gross mismanagement of the rice export market, particularly the Panama rice deal and milling license. This caused many millers to owe farmers for prolonged and extended periods, and resulted in destabilisation of the rice industry. Farmers and they families continued to punish, with some even being unable to replant.
This all happened under the watch of these managers. Millers who owe large sums to farmers were given license to continue operating. This is going against what is stated in the Rice Factory Act, and yet it happened. This can be viewed as a highly corrupt deal between these defaulting millers and those managers.
Further, these politically appointed managers put the organisation in serious financial woes.
I respectfully ask you, President HE Dr Ali, Minister of Agriculture and Government team to step in now and save the rice industry, so that each and every citizen of this beautiful land of Guyana can truly reap the benefits and services of this noble organization.
Rice farmer and
concerned citizen of