Rice industry challengesIn a recent visit to the Essequibo Island of Leguan, Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder had met with a few cattle and poultry farmers to, among other things, gather updates on the state of those industries.GRDB General Manager Nizam HassanAgriculture Minister Noel HolderHowever, this visit angered residents as the minister was reportedly reluctant to meet with rice farmers. This comes on the heels of statements the minister expressed which noted that some of the challenges that face the rice industry should be sorted out between farmers and miers.On Monday Guyana Times was told that rice farmers were prepared to engage Minister Holder as he was on the island but were left astonished when they were by-passed. “Abbe close off to go and reach de man…but de man come and go-way back,” one rice farmer complained:“[I feel] very bad, they not interested in Agriculture, he met with cattle farmers and poultry farmers, and encouraged them to mek plenty duck and pig,” the farmer explained.This newspaper was also told that the minister also stopped albeit briefly at the office of the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) but did not engage councillors who were reportedly prepared to engage in discussions over the plight of the rice industry.Meanwhile,Guyana Times was also told that Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) General Manger, Nizam Hassan is slated to visit the island on Thursday. This comes after farmers there had registered their complaints over not being consulted on the future of the rice industry. They had noted that GRDB had reduced its meetings with them.In late July Guyana Times had interviewed farmers in the Essequibo islands of Legaun, and Wakenaam, Region Three, and in Mahaicony, Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice), who all related that GRDB had not been engaging them on the future of the rice industry.“Me ain’t hear nothing as yet, dem nah keep no meeting as yet,” rice famer Jaichand (only name) had explained. This newspaper had also reported that at Leguan, GRDB had not met with farmers in over three months.Meanwhile, a female farmer Sharmilla Ally had told Guyana Times that her challenges have been significant, so much so that she and her husband, Astraf Ally were not able recover the costs of their investments.Last year, Venezuela officially terminated Guyana’s PetroCaribe deal which saw the exchange of fuel and rice at “favourable prices”, as the Spanish-speaking nation teamed up with Suriname to pursue a similar agreement.The agreement, signed between Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his Surinamese counterpart Desi Bouterse, will allow Suriname to continue to receive favourable rates on oil in exchange for rice.Only on Saturday, rice farmers in Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) expressed dissatisfaction with the current paddy prices being offered by millers. The prices range from $1500-$2300 for grades A, B and C, and according to them the venture is quiet unprofitable.During interviews with rice farmers along the Essequibo Coast, farmers complained that the price millers are offering cannot sustain their livelihood. Most of them explained that they have loans to repay at commercial banks and they are worried that with the current prices they will not be able to offset their overhead expenses.Last crop rice farmers were offered low prices which forced many of them out of business.