Regional Democratic Councillor, Haseef Yusuf recently reported that there is a decline in rice production in Region Six (East/Berbice Corentyne). In a letter to the media, Yusuf said that in the last crop, rice farmers were unable to harvest more than 200 acres of rice due to impassable dams which have gotten worse due to the rainy conditions.
Acknowledging that the rainfall is a natural phenomenon, he said that the major downfall is the “decreasing emphasis” on repairs of the dams and other infrastructural repairs and maintenance within the region.
“These have been on a downward trajectory since this Government took office. This administration feels that oil is the answer to all our economic woes, as is evidenced by the haste to close the four sugar estates and the downward scaling of the sugar industry. Unfortunately, this crop in Region Six is marred by the continuous degradation of the dams to the extent that nearly 15,000 acres of rice lands have not been cultivated. This was highlighted at our last statutory meeting at the RDC.”
Vice Chairman, Dennis Deoroop estimated that it will take nearly $200 million to get these dams back in shape, and this is not possible in the short-term.
“What is most disappointing is that the dams have never been in the current state they are now in. Tractors, hymacs, and graders are literally drowned on some of these dams and it is a huge challenge for farmers to transport vital inputs and labour. This will definitely affect the level of production and our export market, especially at a time when we are trying to expand our markets abroad. We may definitely lose some of these.”
He noted that $3 billion from the $40B budget for the Ministry of Agriculture could have gone towards fixing the dams and infrastructure in Region Six.
“This Government has failed the Agriculture sector badly; they have destroyed sugar, now it seems that rice is a similar work-in-progress,” he declared.