MMA/ADA land increases horrendous – Jagdeo
…can push farmers into bankruptcyAs the fallout continues over the impending Mahaica-Mahaicony-Abary-Agricultural Develop-ment Authority (MMA/ADA) increases for land rental and drainage and irrigation services, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has registered his concern over the threat to livelihoods that the changes may bring.In this light, he called on Government to rethink its decision on the increases, which in the main amounts to 600 per cent.A scene from last week’s protest in Region Five“I would urge the Government to reverse the horrendous increases that they have placed on the backs of the farmers and the cattle rearers in Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice),” Jagdeo told media operatives at a press conference on Monday.The Opposition Leader further noted that this move would “decimate” the communities and their livelihoods. He suggested that residents and farmers across the political divide would be affected by the increases. “Agriculture is the lifeblood of that region, mainly rice and cattle rearing. There are communities that support PPP as well as communities that support APNU – this decision will harm all of those people. They are already operating marginally and this can push them into bankruptcy,” the Opposition Leader added.“If you have 200 acres of rice land, suddenly your yearly fee to MMA will go to $3 million. For cattle farmers who have to find close to $4000 from roughly $700 per acre. People need fairly large amounts of acreage to sustain animals,” Jagdeo stressed.Last week, Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) farmers protested the increases, but Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman, who updated the media on Cabinet’s discussions claimed that increases were “not exorbitant”. In fact, he expressed that he was repeating Agriculture Minister Noel Holder’s long-held view that the most recent MMA-ADA fees could not continue to facilitate the financial operations at the Ministry’s sub-agency.Trotman had further added that the increases were necessary to fix broken and missing equipment in areas under MMA-ADA’s preview.Minister Trotman had also justified the cumulative increases based on the monthly price per acre. Among the changes are new drainage and irrigation charges for profit to Rosignol villages moving from $2500 per year to $8000 per year, representing a $5500 increase.Additionally, farmland that falls in the Mahaicony/Abary rice development category will see farmers now paying $7000, an increase of $1241 from last year’s fees. The cost per month of the former amounts to $666 per month while the latter accrued $583. MMA-ADA General Manager Aubrey Charles had told Guyana Times late last week that the cumulative increased fee, which amount to $15,000, would only be paid by farmers who benefit from all of the services offered by MMA.However, a group of irate Region Five rice farmers last Tuesday protested the move on the basis that they cannot afford to pay $15,000 per acre of rice land, noting that they were previously paying $3500 per acre. However, the Agriculture Ministry in response had described the protest actions as “unfortunate”. The Opposition later confirmed that it would be moving to lay a motion in Parliament to review these increases.Farmers have been receiving reduced earnings for their paddy following the end of the lucrative Petro-Caribe (rice-for-oil) deal with Venezuela in 2015. Since then, many rice farmers have reiterated calls for Government to implement various subsidies, including on fuel and heavy-duty equipment, to assist them in maintaining their livelihood.