Rice farmers said on Tuesday that the government must respond urgently to prevent a strike on March 19.
The governor of Tolima, Luis Carlos Delgado Peñon, and several government officials from the region have sent a letter to President Juan Manuel Santos demanding solutions to the rice farming crisis, and say that without a prompt and satisfactory response from the government, the strike will go ahead as planned.
The leader of the National Movement for the Dignity of Rice Farmers (MNDA), Roberto Botero, has stressed that the rice farmers’ objective is to avoid the strike if possible. “Our intention is not to strike, not to destabilize the country, but the circumstances have forced us into this situation,” he said.
Rafael Hernandez, the president of the national rice production federation Fedearroz, has reportedly been in constant contact with industry leaders in the Casanare, Meta and Tolima departments in attempts to convince the rice farmers not to go ahead with the planned national action, calling it “unnecessary and unjustified”.
However Eudoro Alvarez, president of the Farmers’ Association in Meta has pointed towards the strike as a measure to get the government’s attention, claiming that in spite of several letters to the government and peaceful protests they have yet to obtain any response.
Alvarez claimed that the rice workers had sent a list of demands to the government on January 9 followed by a peaceful march, carried out on February 8 by more than 8,000 rice farmers across the country, which put forward a four point plan that they felt could bring the sector out of its current state of crisis. Both acts reportedly got no response from the government.
According to the MNDA, the national strike was planned for the March 19 only after no reply was obtained from the State.
The rice farmers’ four main propositions are as follows:
Prices: The first point that the farmers are claiming is related to establishing new base prices per field, per year, which, according to producers, would allow them to judge how much each harvest would make and how much to sow.
Control of imports: Another demand is that the government shut off the importation of rice from the United States and Andean Community Nations (CAN) such as Peru and Ecuador due to the increase that they say internal demand has on prices.
Contraband: in addition to these imports, rice farmers point to contraband as a factor in the sector’s troubles. More stringent border control from the government is called for to stem the entry of contraband rice into Colombia.
Modernization: Finally the farmers are asking for resources in order to modernize, in particular, machinery for the post-harvesting process.
Intentan frenar paro arrocero, que iniciaría el próximo 19 de marzo (Radio Nacional de Colombia)
Fue definido paro arrocero para el próximo 19 de marzo (El nuevo dia)