By Shermain Bique-Charles
Livestock and crop farmers may be currently omitted from the 25 percent fuel subsidy afforded to registered fishermen, egg farmers, bus drivers and taxi operators, but government says extending the provision is not being ruled out.
The 30-day subsidy implemented on March 18 was intended to offer relief to fisherfolk, along with public transport drivers and their passengers who otherwise risked shouldering the burden of recently increased gasoline and diesel prices.
However, farmers have been crying out for similar assistance, with many of them saying that they are the breadbasket of the nation and are also feeling the effects of the fuel hike through the use of their vehicles.
Foreign Affairs, Immigration and Trade Minister EP Chet Greene said over the weekend that the matter is complicated – as some growers are not bona fide farmers by profession – but not entirely off the table.
“It would not be a request that I would rubbish. Everybody is into some backyard farming, extended plot, you name it. I want to believe that the Ministry of Agriculture can look at the … list of farmers that would represent a fair appreciation of that request,” Greene said.
Some livestock and crop farmers have suggested it’s unfair for egg farmers to benefit from the subsidy, as announced last Thursday, while they do not.
But Information Minister Melford Nicholas said over the weekend that egg farmers’ costs are linked to feed prices, and transportation plays a vital role.
“The majority of their costs has to do with feed, and feed is coming from external which is impacted by both transportation and fuel costs. Rather than have a situation where they would be obliged to increase their cost to the point of having an inflationary impact in the market, we looked at allowing them some cushion,” Nicholas explained.
He said any fuel subsidy for other types of farmers must be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
The subsidy was put in place initially for 30 days, after which time the Cabinet said it will review the fuel price hike.
The increase – to $15.70 per gallon for gasoline, up from $12.50 – and $15.50 per gallon for diesel, up from $12.20 – took effect last month.