Give the sugar work­ers land at Wales and Burma an in­fu­sion of cash and ...

Stabroek News - - EDITORIAL -

with the coun­try’s peas­ant rice farm­ers.

State plan­ners and eco­nomic ad­vi­sors are per­ceived to be smart thinkers, but in the area of sim­ple fore­sight and greater wis­dom, they have failed hor­ri­bly. Their spe­cial­ized train­ing should have en­abled them to un­der­stand that if sugar failed why then in­vest in an­other limp­ing in­dus­try, be­cause rice is def­i­nitely on the de­cline. But then if the mis­sion is to de­stroy the liveli­hood of the rice farm­ers of our coun­try, it will take full ef­fect sooner rather than later.

The Burma Rice Re­search Sta­tion has a vast ex­panse of fer­tile lands – 500 acres or more, well laid out for ex­per­i­men­tal pur­poses. It also has a full com­ple­ment of use­ful in­fra­struc­ture, well placed for mod­ern sci­en­tific re­search op­er­a­tions. But GRDB must ad­mit of course that the Burma Re­search Sta­tion is re­stricted from a bud­getary point of view, and has be­come cash strapped. Re­search and other tech­ni­cal per­son­nel have be­come fewer than they used to be, and the gen­eral semi­skilled and un-skilled labour force is far too limited. The Burma Rice Re­search Sta­tion is in a quandary be­cause of fool­har­di­ness.

There has to be op­ti­mum use of all avail­able land space and proper fo­cus on plots that are des­ig­nated for the prop­a­ga­tion of seed paddy for farm­ers. We can never deny re­al­ity: that what you paid for, is what you will get. Burma re­search does not have the nec­es­sary fi­nan­cial re­sources to do its work uni­formly. Let’s be even more re­al­is­tic: re­mu­ner­a­tion for ev­ery cat­e­gory of worker at this in­sti­tu­tion needs to be up­graded, so as to en­cour­age bet­ter per­for­mance. In the end who will suf­fer? The poor rice farm­ers.

The above is an over­view of what we have and it not be­ing prop­erly uti­lized. But then we want to un­der­take a sim­i­lar project on lands bereft of all things to do proper seedling pro­duc­tion. Land that has been grow­ing sugar cane for al­most its en­tire ex­is­tence, can be very dif­fi­cult and ex­pen­sive to con­vert to rice cul­ti­va­tion. Rice is al­most to­tally aquatic by na­ture, and does not do well on lands that are not level enough for wa­ter sat­u­ra­tion. Sugar cane land sur­faces are made up of rows of el­e­vated beds, drains, dams and deep canals. For rice cul­ti­va­tion, the el­e­vated lands must be flat­tened and drains and canals must be filled ap­pro­pri­ately, and this is a very costly ven­ture in which to in­vest tax­payer’s money. Our coun­try can­not af­ford to go into risky in­vest­ment at this par­tic­u­lar junc­ture.

I would like to ask GRDB Board of Di­rec­tors one salient ques­tion, and that is, why de­cen­tral­ize paddy seedling pro­duc­tion when all the Burma Rice Re­search Sta­tion needs is an in­fu­sion of cash and more at­ten­tion? For sev­eral crops, rice farm­ers have been un­able to ob­tain ba­sic seedlings, be­cause this par­tic­u­lar qual­ity of seedling has never been in the right quan­tity to sat­isfy the needs of a greater num­ber of rice farm­ers. On var­i­ous oc­ca­sions all seed paddy stocks had be­come com­pletely ex­hausted, which more of­ten than not sent rice farm­ers into a frenzy look­ing for same, only to be ex­ploited by fel­low rice farm­ers with very poor qual­ity at ex­or­bi­tant prices. It ap­pears as though all is well at the Burma Re­search Sta­tion. But there are pol­icy con­straints and th­ese are un­der wraps by the GRDB Board of Di­rec­tors where bu­reau­cracy is to the fore.

To avoid a de­ba­cle in paddy cul­ti­va­tion at Wales Es­tate why can’t cen­tral govern­ment be gen­er­ous and by way of res­o­lu­tion, give the sugar work­ers of that par­tic­u­lar aban­doned sugar plan­ta­tion, ti­tled parcels of lands, so that they can con­trive to earn a de­cent liveli­hood. The land can be zoned for dif­fer­ent crops and this will bring some sem­blance of trust, peace and sat­is­fac­tion in all di­rec­tions. I am re­ally con­cerned about the daily plight of our broth­ers and sis­ters of Wales Es­tate. They don’t de­serve to be left fi­nan­cially broke and stranded with­out a proper source of in­come.

In a re­cent Stabroek editorial, the ed­i­tor quotes the statis­tics of GRDB chief ex­ten­sion of­fi­cer as vouch­ing that this au­tumn crop has seen an in­crease in the acreage of rice cul­ti­va­tion. This dec­la­ra­tion is er­ro­neous, and can­not stand up to scru­tiny. Be­cause of in­ces­sant rain­fall coun­try­wide, lots of rice farm­ers did not put in a crop, and those who were will­ing to do it, had the fi­nan­cial re­sources to do so. The main rea­son for leav­ing rice lands idle, is the very low prices paid for paddy.

I have the deep­est ap­pre­ci­a­tion and the high­est re­gards for Mr Rag­nauth’s prin­ci­pled ser­vices to the coun­try’s rice farm­ers. He un­der­stands the lan­guage and the feel­ings of the farm­ers; he is the most pop­u­lar of the ex­ten­sion per­son­nel. He has al­ways been very hum­ble to ev­ery­one and he is a univer­sity grad­u­ate whose ser­vices could be equated to those of late pro­duc­tion man­ager of GRDB Mr C P Ken­nard. How­ever, I feel that I should cau­tion him on his source of in­for­ma­tion to pre­pare his all-time sen­si­tive re­ports. Sta­tis­ti­cal in­for­ma­tion must come from the farmer’s mouth and the proof of his fields. Lastly when ‘rear­guards’ have emerged to be­come heads of govern­ment agen­cies and govern­ment in­sti­tu­tions a once hon­ourable man can be forced to do the un­ex­pected.

If we fail to lis­ten we will fail to learn, and if we fail to learn, we will all be con­sumed.

Yours faith­fully, Ganga Per­saud

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