Rice farmers demand aerial spraying of crops to rid bugs

― picket GRDB office in Berbice

Rice farmers on the Corentyne in Berbice on Tuesday picketed the Guyana Rice Development Board’s (GRDB) Seed Paddy Drying Facility at Number 58 Village, calling for the aerial spray of crops to combat the current infestation of paddy bugs.
The GRDB had made a decision to have aerial spraying done since in May but for some unknown reason, the farmers are being made to repeatedly apply insecticides.

A bug infested rice field
President of the 52-74 Water Users’ Association Ahmad Rajab
Rice farmers protesting outside of the GRDB’s Seed Paddy Drying Facility at Number 58 Village

After huge losses during the last rice crop resulting in farmers not being able to meet financial obligations, the farmers made a decision to plant this crop hoping to make up for previous losses but they are now being faced with a situation which seems even worse than the last crop.
The farmers are demanding that aerial spraying be done but this, they claimed, has been falling on deaf ears. As such, they are seeking to get wider attention.
More than 20 rice farmers held placards and chanted “aerial spraying now” and “GRDB Manager must go”, as they marched in front of the Rice Board’s Corentyne facility.
One of the farmers, Ramlagan Singh, who is also an extension office of the Rice Producers’ Association (RPA), told this publication that they were protesting to reiterate to the GRDB that their crops are in danger.
He said the last crop showed that over 25 per cent of the farmers lost their crop and barely made it into the current crop.
“Now that they are, the rice is now flowering and the paddy bugs are in very high population so we are asking GRDB to do aerial spraying immediately to save the rice crop.”
He explained that farmers are being forced to spray their fields and within two days, the paddy bugs return.
Meanwhile, President of the 52-74 Water Users’ Association, Ahmad Rajab, who is also a rice farmer, explained that the Water Users’ Association met with the GRDB two weeks ago to address the issue.
“They promised us that they are going to do something about it and we are not hearing from them. They said that they will spray the dams and trenches but they have two blowers and they have one extension officer who has the responsibility from Number 43 Village all the way to Moleson Creek; just in the 52-74 area alone I have over three hundred miles of dams and trenches and he has not done much as yet. So, we are calling on the GRDB to help the farmers because they are hitting a dead end,” Rajab noted.
He added that any type of assistance will be appreciated but aerial spraying will adequately address the issue.
However, President of Guyana Rice Producers’ Association Leekha Rambrich stated that the infestation of paddy bugs is beyond their control.
“We want the authorities to understand that with that amount of paddy bugs in the field, it is out of the farmers’ reach to control them and we are demanding aerial spraying to be done immediately to bring some assistance and relief to the farmers. If this is not done then we will see that the 62,000 acres which is under rice cultivation in the region might go down.”
He added that the Board made a decision three months ago and instructed the General Manager to go ahead with aerial spraying, however, it was only one week ago that the GRDB began to source an aircraft to get the job done.
“This shows gross incompetence in the General Manager because as a General Manager, the Board gave him instructions three months ago to start looking for an aircraft and he has the go-ahead to implement the decision of the Board but did nothing; gross incompetence. We had a special committee that met and came up with a way forward for the paddy bugs and we made a few recommendations, one of which was for two hundred sweep nets to be made by the Board and be distributed to farmers. To date, none has been distributed and the decision was made two months ago.”
He said another decision taken by the Board was for two specialists to be brought to Guyana to study the behaviour pattern of the bugs.
“The GRDB brought in two agronomists who come around to fool the farmers; telling them that they are spraying their rice too much. Fifty years ago, my father used to plant rice and it is the same thing I was going up to now; spraying one time for leafworm and heartworm and then one time for stem bora. So, we do two spraying and then we spray for paddy bugs. Now, these agronomists come in and tell farmers that their practices are wrong. Fifty years ago, we were doing this and the practice was not wrong then,” the RPA President claimed.
Nevertheless, the farmers reiterated that they will continue to protest until they get some satisfaction from the Guyana Rice Development Board. (Andrew Carmichael)