Wakenaam rice farmers still owed

…miller cites country’s economy as reason for non-payment

By Shemuel Fanfair

As the weeks and months go by, farmers in the Essequibo island of Wakenaam are still encountering difficulties in acquiring payment for their paddy.
Early last month, this newspaper highlighted that many of the farmers were not paid for paddy produced for the crop that ended in April.
Guyana Times understands that a delegation of farmers recently visited one of the main millers to appeal for their outstanding payments, which amount to millions of dollars. However, one farmer who preferred to remain anonymous told this publication on Sunday that that miller detailed a series of excuses that chronicled why farmers cannot yet be paid.

“They try he yes; they even went, and the miller tell them about the crisis (in) the country, how it going and all [kinds of things],” the farmer observed.
The rice farmer expressed frustration at not having enough money to purchase the requisite materials to continue rice cultivation. “If ‘Rice Man’ do business, he got to have money [to] do he business; but they (the millers) just want to use the farmers,” this farmer angrily stated.
Withholding payments to farmers is in contravention of the Rice Factories (Amendment) Act of 2009, which stipulates that farmers need wait no longer than the mandatory 42 days before being paid for their paddy. According to the Act, the manufacturer (miller) is required to pay the paddy producer (farmer) half the amount due that farmer within two weeks of receiving that farmer’s paddy, and the remainder of the liability must be liquidated within 42 days of the parties signing the agreement of paddy sale.
Less than one month ago, it was announced that, through a fertilizer credit system which Government had termed a cost-effective approach to assisting farmers, rice farmers can access fertiliser and repay the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) at the end of each crop. Guyana Times was told that although Wakenaam farmers are able, under this arrangement, to obtain the 6:25:25 fertiliser, they need to likewise access urea, to blend with what was provided, but have been told that this chemical is not available.
“The expense is too much; and if you had cash at hand, you can able to do something better. Everybody done shy back, them just waiting on their money to buy fertilizer,” a farmer told Guyana Times on Sunday.
The Agriculture Ministry disclosed last Friday that 17,000 tonnes of paddy have been shipped to Mexico in a deal said to be worth some US$17 million (GY$3B), and 43,000 tonnes more will be shipped to the Central American country over the next two months.
However, the days of farmers getting premium rates for their paddy crops have since passed, following the end of the PetroCaribe (rice-for-oil) deal which was cancelled by Venezuela in 2015. Under that arrangement, farmers accrued some $9,000 per bag of paddy, but this has been reduced to between $1800 and $2,500, depending on location.
When Guyana Times interviewed the farmers earlier this month, their reluctance to engage in production this year was noted, but was understandable, considering that they are owed for their produce. One miller who owes farmers millions of dollars had reportedly switched off his mobile phone and had refused to take telephone call from farmers at that time.
Guyana Times had also reported that a similar situation of non-payment obtained on the neighbouring island of Leguan, where numerous farmers there had also not been paid for their paddy. Large-scale farmer Takur Persaud told this publication in June that even though farmers had easier access to fertilisers, many of them had opted against preparing their lands for cultivation because of the outstanding sums they were owed. He had also explained that while one miller had paid farmers $2000 per bag for a previous crop of paddy, because farmers had not been given vouchers, they were unsure what they would have been paid per bag for the most recent paddy crop.