As time draws near for harvesting, rice farmers across Guyana are experiencing great angst given the uncertainty surrounding paddy prices. When Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha showed up today at the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary (MMA) Office in Onverwagt, one of the main issues he was faced was, “how much we go get paid for we paddy.”
Scores of farmers surrounded Mustapha hoping to get a definitive word on prices. The minister said government continues to work on that front but has not been able to meet an agreement with millers.
Mustapha said that the government’s position is that farmers should not be paid anything less than what they were paid last crop which was $4000 per bag.
Some farmers immediately applauded that announcement but Mustapha quickly cautioned them not to cheer just yet as the millers have not agreed. to maintain the prices. The minister said he met with the Rice Millers Association recently and made known the government’s position but he was met with resistance.
He told the farmers, “A lot of them (millers) said they can’t pay this, and they can’t pay that…As a government, we have certain limitations. We do not have price control in this country. We cannot force their hands and say pay the farmers $4500 or $4200 per bag of paddy. But, we are working with them.”
Further, Mustapha told farmers that he instructed the General Manager of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) to submit the cost of production for rice in each region.
Even as he continues to work on securing a good price for paddy this crop, Mustapha used the opportunity to remind farmers that the Dr. Irfaan Ali led Government has put several measures in place to reduce the financial burden on farmers. Among the measures mentioned was the reduction in land rental and drainage and irrigation charges. Mustapha also reminded that the government made $1B available to farmers after the cost of fertilizer increased as well as provided compensation to farmers following the devastating floods of 2021.