“PAY daddy for his paddy,” was the cry of young children of rice farmers from various parts of the country during a recent placard demonstration.
They demonstrated in front the newly-opened Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries building in Endeavour, Chaguanas, on November 28. Led by Eniath Hosein of the Rice Farmers Association, the children’s parents called on Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat to make representation on their behalf to the Agricultural Development Bank to hold back their monthly loan installments while they recuperate from the effects of the October floods which destroyed their rice fields.
Rice farmer Eniath Hosein, told Newsday that the majority of commercial rice planters are unable to submit claims for flood losses, because they do not have legal title to the lands on which they plant. Hosein said, “Most rice farmers today are planting on lands previously planted by rice farmers in the past. We have been asking the minister to find other means to verify bonafide farmers. The ministry knows who these farmers are.”
The farmers hard-hit by the flood are from the villages of St Helena in Caroni, Piarco, Plum Mitan and Carlsen Field. They are members of Nariva Farms Ltd, Trinidad Islandwide Rice Growers Association and Caribbean Rice Association.
Speaking on behalf of the 40 protestors, Hosein said that rice seedlings have since been scarce because the ministry closed the seed bank. He said, “Rice farmers not getting the financial incentive for land preparation. Infrastructural development has slowed considerably. The current minister indicated that all farmers will be compensated but this is not happening.”
Additionally, Hosein said, the National Flour Mills continue to pay farmers late, as late as a year after they have submitted their claims. They farmers vow to escalate their protest.