President Ali meets with Regions 2, 5 rice millers to discuss financial woes

President Dr Irfaan Ali on Wednesday met with five rice millers from across the country to discuss financial challenges as well as other issues currently plaguing the industry.
The meeting was held at State House and saw millers from Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) and Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) being engaged by the Head of State.
According to a brief statement on President Ali’s social media page, they discussed issues that the millers are “currently facing in the rice industry”.
Also accompanying the President during Wednesday’s meeting was Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha.

President Dr Irfaan Ali meeting with rice millers on Wednesday

The Minister told Guyana Times after the meeting that these millers were having difficulties in fulfilling their financial obligations to banks, so they sought the Government’s intervention.
“We will be meeting with the rice millers to deal with the issues. Issues about payment matters – payments to rice farmers and other issues… They had some concerns with their bank loans and so on,” the Agriculture Minister disclosed.
President Ali has since delegated Mustapha as well as the Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh, and Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, to examine the concerns of the millers and have them resolved.
“We will be meeting with the banks and then we will meet with the [millers] back… So, we will be dealing with all the issues they raised with the President over the next few days,” Minister Mustapha related.
The Ministers were expected to update the President with a solution sometime in the near future.
President Ali has been promoting Guyana’s agricultural potential at the regional and global levels, and has even described food production and agriculture as the country’s sustainable future.
In light of this, Agriculture Minister Mustapha last week met with rice farmers in Region Two after they had protested the high fertiliser prices in the region.
The farmers had complained that owing to the cost of the fertilisers, they were finding it hard to move forward with cultivation and called on the Government to intervene in the matter.
As a result, Minister Mustapha contacted one of the main suppliers in the region and was able to influence him to lower the cost by 10 per cent and 18 per cent respectively.
“When I heard about the cost of the fertiliser, immediately, I engaged the supplier. With our intervention, the supplier agreed to bring down the cost of the fertiliser. The urea was reduced from $9500 to $8500 per bag and the TSP from $10,000 to $8200 per bag, and we are going beyond that. Last week, the President announced that we are in discussion with our bilateral partners to see how we can collaborate to address these cost increases. This may be burdensome, but this is a global issue and we need farmers to recognise that,” he had said.
Further, the Agriculture Minister explained that owing to a global shortage of natural gas, many industries were affected which has resulted in increases for many commodities across the world.
“We have to look at the reasons for the increase in prices. We are seeing an increase in the cost of natural gas, which is a critical component when producing fertilisers. Globally, the cost of fertilisers has increased tremendously. In some parts of the US, the costs have doubled and tripled. Even in China, a powerhouse producer, many industries were closed because of the pandemic which resulted in a shortage of natural gas. That is why it is important for us to build that pipeline so that we can be in a position to produce our own natural gas,” Mustapha stated.
During a media briefing two weeks ago, President Ali had revealed that at the international level, his government did not intend to sit down and wait for the situation to correct itself. Referencing the rising cost of fertilisers, the President said that over the past four weeks, discussions were held with many bilateral partners to remedy this.
According to the Head of State, the increase in the cost of production and logistics has driven prices up across the world.
“We are doing this so that the farmers, the sugar industry, the rice producers – they can all benefit. Because if we don’t bring down the cost, we know too that the cost of rice will increase,” Dr Ali said.
President Ali had said too that the current circumstances were threatened by the forecast that existing shortages and price increases would continue well into 2022.
The Head of State posited that an assessment of what was happening in major economies like China showed that they were experiencing the fastest growth in increased prices since the 1990s. In the United States of America, the consumer prices index for October showed prices rose 6.2 per cent over the last 12 months. According to President Ali, it is the highest in the last three decades.
After receiving insight into the root cause of the increases, farmers expressed their satisfaction with the Government’s efforts to bring down the cost of fertilisers so far and said that they looked forward to more interventions that could result in further reductions.