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Farmers call for subsidy on chemicals, fertiliser
The National Foodcrop Farmers Association (NFFA) is predicting a further rise in the country’s inflation if the Government refuses to subsidise the cost of inputs to farmers. Insisting that the high cost of inputs such as chemicals and fertilisers have been fuelling food inflation, president of the NFFA Terrence Haywood warned that if the matter was not addressed with Food Production Minister Vasant Bharath in a meeting scheduled for next month, drastic action would not be ruled out. He said chemicals and fertilisers should be subsidised to ease the farmers’ burden.
Haywood said much more could be done with regard to taking the agriculture sector forward. “I think we could do more.” On Friday, the Central Bank revealed that the latest data from the Central Statistical Office showed the country’s headline inflation measured by the 12-month increase in the index of retail prices rose to 5.7 per cent in November, up from 3.7 per cent in the previous month. The Central Bank stated that the increase in the headline inflation rate was mainly attributed to higher food prices.
According to the Central Bank: “For the first time in six months, year-on-year, food inflation reached double digits—12.3 per cent in November. This increase may have been the result of the flooding of some agricultural areas in late October and early November which impacted local supply and prices of fruits and vegetables. For the year to November, fruit prices increased by 51.9 per cent, compared with 34.1 per cent in October, while prices of vegetables rose by 8.1 per cent compared with 3.7 per cent in October. “Retail prices for several other categories of food items likewise increased on a 12 month basis to November. Prices of oils and fats rose by 14.9 per cent, meats by 7.7 per cent, fish by 6.7 per cent, and milk, cheese and eggs by 8.3 per cent.”
Haywood said despite the Government distribution of 4,000 acres of agricultural lands a few weeks ago, food prices continued to soar. “We expect food inflation to go higher because farmers have been paying a pound and a crown for fertilisers and chemicals. Our cost of production is too high. That is our main problem, coupled with praedial larceny.” Haywood said as a result of rising costs of inputs, farmers were unable to export much less obtain food security and sovereignty. “We can’t compete with nobody outside there. We can’t make that.”
In the next two weeks, Haywood said the NFFA would be meeting with technocrats from the ministry to discuss this burning issue. “They (technocrats) must not be calling the shots. They have to sit down and listen to us and our plans now. All we have been hearing is talk from them.” Failure to take heed, Haywood said, the association would know what to do. “I can’t predict what will happen,” he said yesterday. Asked if the NFFA may protest, “Something.... we don’t know yet. After that meeting we will know which direction to take.”
Lee Yuen: Time is running out
Agriculture activist and former deputy political leader of the Congress of the People Wendy Lee Yuen said inflation had been pointing to economic international pressures, which were beyond our control. “It is also pointing out that time is running out for us to diversify the economy and try and become less dependent on oil and gas.” Lee Yuen agreed that the agriculture sector needed to get up and running. “Honestly that is not happening fast enough.” She pointed out that there was a close relationship between oil, fertiliser and pesticides all derivatives of the energy industry.
“As oil prices go up past US$100 a barrel you will find prices increasing.” Five years ago, Lee said she paid a little over $100 for a 40-kilogramme bag of transplant salt. Today, the price has skyrocketed to $235. Lee Yuen said the more highbred we get in seed quality, the higher the prices would go. Lee Yuen said we were yet to arrive at a position on our domestic food production.
“Where the price of food is a factor at the cost of production. The prices of food in our country is still based on supply and demand.” She disagreed, however, that the Government should subsidise inputs. “I think Government should pay at the output end because there are too many loopholes in the system. As an insider, knowing how people can milk the system.” The inflation, Lee Yuen said, was likely to go down at the beginning of the dry season—the farmers’ most productive time.
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