While Government may possibly write off the hundreds of thousands of dollars owed by farmers for the use of water, increased water rates are likely to remain.
That is according to Prime Minister Mia Mottley who said farmers could not expect to pay the same water rate today as they did 40 years ago.
During a meeting on Wednesday, a group of concerned farmers blasted Government for its decision to raise their water rates from .60 cents per cubic meter to $1.80 per cubic meter, an increase of 200 per cent.
The farmers claimed they had not been consulted on the water hike and argued it would “drive them to their death” as the price of fertilizer had increased by 100 per cent from $90 to $190.
When asked for a response to the farmers’ concerns, Mottley pointed out that the meeting was held by a “select group of farmers” who owed Government money for water bills dating back as far as 40 years.
And while the prime minister said she was willing to meet with the farmers and possibly write off the debt owed to Government, she contended that as one of the most water-scarce countries in the world, the cost of water had to go up.
“…They were paying .66 cents per cubic meter which is 66 cents for 220 gallons of water and they’ve been paying that rate for 40 years. I don’t know about any other rate that you have been paying for 40 years that has not been adjusted at some point in time, but equally the Government remains willing to meet with them and to listen with them.
“There may well be a case for us to forget the debts, that may be true, but we cannot in today’s world believe that one of the 15 most water-scarce countries can continue to keep water rates at the same level that they were 40 years ago without reference to the fact that every price has increased upon us and without reference to the fact that the ground water crisis that is upon us is also as a result of the climate crisis,” Mottley said during a press conference at Ilaro Court where officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were also present.
“We have to drink water as a country; we have to use water as a country and if we want to do that we have to make sure that water is first available. If the cost of making it available is both increased to augment the supply and that we have to deal with the fact that we have something around 45 to 50 per cent of what we call non-revenue water…For every 100 gallons of water that we pump we are losing 45 to 50 gallons in leaks and that’s our reality…So I’m more than willing to sit with the farmers as would I’m sure the Minister of Agriculture will and to explain where we are and why we are here.”
Mottley said there had been similar cries and concerns expressed when it was announced that bus fares would be increased.
“Nobody likes pain but we will work and ensure that those farmers can live,” the Prime Minister indicated.
Mottley also revealed that farmers in Springfield, St Lucy would soon have the luxury of having a new water pond.
She also indicated that Government was looking at ways to reduce the cost of fertilizer for farmers. [email protected]