Rice farmers on the Essequibo Coast have alleged that they are being bullied off farmlands they have been occupying for decades by Kayman Sankar and Company Limited (KSCL) and Caricom Rice Mills Limited (CRML). The companies have, however, refuted such claims.
The allegations against the companies were brought to the public’s attention on Wednesday morning when farmers of Hampton Court took to the streets to protest their removal from the lands. The protest action resulted in Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha meeting with the farmers and the companies.
These claims have since been refuted by KSCL. In a statement issued on Wednesday, KSCL asked the Government to explain to the group of farmers their legal obligations to the company under the laws.
“The fact of the matter is that our company’s intention is not to remove the farmers from our lands for which we are lawful holders of title and lease. The reality of the situation is that the farmers occupying our lands have not been fulfilling their lawful obligations of paying rent.”
KSCL said that the farmers’ refusal to pay the land rent which was recently increased by $4,650 per acre has put “serious strain” on the company’s finances. The company alleged that the farmers have also refused to sell paddy to its mill and form a registry of occupancy for the lands.
“We have constantly encouraged the farmers to come into our company so we can update our registry of who is occupying which portions on land. There are instances where the original tenants would have passed away, and their relatives have taken over working our lands…our company simply wishes to regularize and have an updated register of our activities,” the statement from the company added.
CRML has also issued a letter that was written on October 15, 2021, and sent to the Mayor of Anna Regina Town Council, President Irfaan Ali, Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha, Minister of Education Priya Manickchand, and Minister of Local Government and Regional Development Nigel Dharmlall. In the letter, the company expressed concerns about farmers parking their trailers in an improper way along the government reserve which it was granted permission to caretake.
The CRML also indicated that it has no intention to occupy the government reserve. An Executive Member of the Al-Mahdinah Masjid has also expressed concerns about how CRML has been using the reserve. The member said that the masjid had engaged the Regional Executive Officer about using the reserve for the parking of school buses but shortly after the rice mill blocked the entrance of the land.