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Essequibo rice farmers burn tires on road for faster payments; govt says most debts settled

Fire set by protesting rice farmers at Three Friends village, Essequibo Coast

Rice farmers on the Essequibo Coast were Friday night burning tires and other debris as they continued to blocking the road at Three Friends village with tractors and trailers to demand faster payments by millers.

Region Three Chairman, Parmanand Persaud was escorted by police to appeal with the farmers but his effort was in vain. They have expressed no confidence in him.

Police later informed the huge gathering that it was illegal to protest in the night and they should remove the vehicles that are blocking the roadway. The farmers, however, vowed not to move unless the Minister of Agriculture goes to address them. They also threatened to burn tires on the bridge if those in authority continue to ignore them.

Commuters going to their destinations paid ‘double-fares’ to get to their destinations because they had to take buses and cars at either end of the blockage.

Another key concern by the farmers is the recent installation of a pump at Three Friends that they said should have been put at Lima where the sluice is malfunctioning. They claimed that they have lost a rice crop as a result of the wrongful installation.

Agriculture Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy is convinced that the millers are doing all they can to buy the paddy and sell rice.  “We are dealing with 24 billion (Guyana) dollars worth. They could have decided to not buy the paddy from the farmers. That would not have been a good option,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

Ramsammy assured that government was working with the millers to pay the pay. During the first crop $24B of paddy was sold.  He explained that so far 85 percent or about GUY$20 billion have been paid.  The Agriculture Minister plans to meet with the millers again next week.

He said that already millers in Essequibo have held meetings with farmers and informed them that payments would be made by next week.  “This is a small group of farmers who had pre-planned this,” he said.

Usually, millers are paid half of the prices to allow them to prepare for the next crop and then they are paid the remainder during the second crop that begins year-end.