Suggestions for improving the rice industry
Stabroek News
February 28, 2002

Dear Editor,

According to press reports, strenuous efforts are being made to revitalise the ailing rice industry. Let me sound a warning at this time. A careful study should be made about the root causes of the disastrous situation that has plagued the rice industry over the past few years, before massive amounts of money are pumped into it. There should be no repetition of the recent failures.

Over the past few years, money flowed from the rice farmers to the millers/exporters and disappeared. The key is to have the money generated from the rice industry flow back to the farmers. This in turn greases the wheels of the farming community. In this situation money circulates from the farmer to the shopkeeper, milk vendor, the citrus and vegetable growers, millers, and a host of others who keep alive the spirit of the community. Those who "choked off" the money from the rice sales are responsible for the decline of the rice industry. The money belongs to the farmers' pockets.

Some time ago, I had suggested that the RPA incorporate itself into a Rice Producers' Co operative and manage the export, etc. of rice. Changes and new visions or approaches are needed now. The rice farming community engages the services or labour of thousands of seasonal workers. These workers should be unionised into a Rice Farming Union, and be affiliated to the TUC, thereby giving "teeth" to their union a challenge for the RPA leadership.

There are other hindrances to be overcome within the farming community. For example, cattle roam free at certain times of the year. This should end soon. Cattle owners ought to possess enough pasture land to provide fodder for their own animals. Cattle must not roam about on the properties of others. Cattle create havoc with the infrastructure of the rice belt, especially the very important "dams" for the control and supply of water to the rice plants. If the cattle are kept out of the rice farming area, the incomes of farmers can be boosted by the planting of cash crops, fruit trees, etc. on the dams. May I also suggest that for a certain size of cultivatable land, a limited amount of land be planted with (fruit) trees. This is good for the natural habitat.

Farmers can also secure certain areas where the rice is planted in "fields". These secured areas can then have young fresh water prawns, tilapia, etc. mature as the rice plants grow. These can be harvested as the water is drained out prior to the reaping of the rice crop. People just need to think a little to improve themselves.

Yours faithfully,

Balwant Prasad