Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha on Saturday met residents and farmers from Canje, Berbice, and assured them that assessments are ongoing to determine the number of losses they would have encountered due to the recent flooding.
During a meeting at the Betsy Ground Primary School in East Canje Berbice, Minister Mustapha informed residents that a team from his Ministry has been in the Region conducting an assessment. Some residents would have raised concerns about not being visited by any representative from the Ministry so far.
After hearing these claims, Minister Mustapha asked the various Heads of the Department for the list of farmers visited so far. It was later confirmed that farmers who claimed of being omitted from the exercise were not at home when the officers visited their farms.
It was also discovered that the extension staff did indeed capture their losses, but in many cases, their relatives gave the officers “call names” and not birth names.
“I’m sure you would’ve heard me say that an assessment must be done to verify the losses that people suffered during the flood. Those instructions were given across the country. We have teams in Region Six comprising of officers from NAREI, GLDA, GRDB, and the other agencies that are supposed to be going house-to-house to do these assessments. If those officers are not doing this, they will be held accountable. For too long, people have been receiving salaries at the end of the month for substandard work.
“Farmers have been saying that they are making requests, but those requests are not being fulfilled, and in turn, the government is being blamed. We have been making the necessary resources available, so there should be no excuse for not carrying out the work. This is why I’m in the process of reorganising the entire extension arm of the ministry,” Minister Mustapha said.
He also disclosed that $40 million has been allocated to carry out land clearing for agricultural development across the country.
“Usually, when I traverse the country, farmers make requests for land clearing. We asked the RDC to give us some areas. We have $40 million in our budget to do land clearing for agriculture. Those funds are under the NDIA work programme. If those requests don’t come to us, we cannot expend those funds. We’ve been working through all the local bodies,” Minister Mustapha said.
The agriculture minister also told residents that the Pepper Sluice, located in Canefield, Canje, will be reactivated and that the NDIA will be making machines available to execute all of the works residents requested. He also advised them to work with their various Regional Officers to make requests for projects so that funds could be made available in the 2022 budget.
MOVING AHEAD AT THE ROSE HALL ESTATE
Meanwhile, Minister Mustapha told residents that the government was aggressively moving ahead with the planned reopening of the Rose Hall Estate.
“We are pushing for Rose Hall. Last week we signed a number of contracts for equipment for the estate. Equipment to do tillage and so on. We’ve had several meetings with the estate’s manager. Planting there has commenced, and hopefully, we can get the factory going by the end of next year. It will take a lot of resources to move Rose Hall. We have limited resources, but we are working very hard. Our objective is to reduce the cost of production, and over the next few years, GuySuCo will be working to ensure more effort is put into packaged sugar rather than bulk sugar because packet sugar is more lucrative. So, when we open estates like the one at Rose Hall, that will be our focus.
“We are also looking to improve GuySuCo’s packaging plants. We have one at Enmore and one at Blairmont, and we are looking to improve those by making them larger so that we can produce more packaged sugar,” Minister Mustapha added.