Rice farmers got a glimmer of hope on Thursday when they started gathering outside a ministry’s office for a protest. Instead, an official met them and promised to resolve their issues.
About 15 farmers complained that the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries is owing them thousands of dollars.
At about 8 am, they arrived at the office at the corner of Narsaloo Ramaya Marg Road and Soogrim Street, Chaguanas, to highlight their plight.
The farmers sell to the National Flour Mills.
Suresh Ramasar said farmers had not received payment for the past year and seven months. He estimated that about 45 farmers are affected.
"We met with the permanent secretary who, after making some calls, said we would be paid supposedly next Friday. We want full payment, not in parts. We also want our money before the general election," Ramasar said.
"Every time we call on the minister (Clarence Rambharat) for our money, he says the PS is dealing with it. We were happy to hear from her today."
The central-based farmers are calling on the government to pay attention to the rice industry. They recalled losing income owing to the floods of 2018 and complained that to date, they had not received compensation from the government.
Owing to financial constraints, the farmers said they survived the past 19 months by planting less. They also use fewer fertilisers which, they say, lower the quality of the product.
They are calling for land tenure and payment "on time."
Fazal Akaloo said farmers intend to use the money to pay off mounting debts.
He labelled Rambharat, who is also the PNM’s candidate for Chaguanas East, as incompetent.
To the incoming Agriculture Minister, Akaloo said: "Get out of the office and come on the fields to see what we need. The 2018 floods wiped out farmers in central, and we are still suffering from that."