Distribution points likely if complaints persist
Amidst complaints over the possible shortage of rice and sugar on the local market, authorities yesterday warned that they are monitoring the situation and could set up depot points across the country as early as this weekend.
Questioned yesterday about the recent concerns raised by shop owners and consumers alike, Agriculture Minister, Robert Persaud, insisted that it is unlikely that both of the key commodities could be short.
Rather, there is enough rice available and adequate sugar being allocated countrywide to meet the Christmas demands.
The government official noted that although the country has exported a record amount of 304,000 tonnes of rice, according to early December figures, the mills and other areas have enough stocks on hand to supply the local market.
Persaud believes that the problem more likely has to do with middlemen who are taking advantage of the situation. In the case of rice, with world prices looking favourable, it may be a case of some dealers hedging their prices against the overseas ones. Stressing that he has no problems with farmers benefitting from higher prices, Persaud was however concerned whether these high prices on the local market were actually being filtered down to them.
Government will be monitoring the situation and if the complaints continue, a decision could be made by Saturday to set up distribution areas at strategic locations.
Entities like the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), Guyana Rice Development Board, New GMC and the Ministry could be involved, the Minister said.
On Monday, GuySuCo denied that the local market is suffering from a shortage of sugar.
The Corporation also warned that consumers should not pay blackmarket prices.
As of December 14, the price of sugar remained the same, with the wholesale price for a 110-lb bag set at $5,000. The recommended retail price is $6,000 for the same 110-lb bag or $55 per pound.
GuySuCo stressed that the sugar sold monthly to an approved list of wholesalers, distributors, retailers and manufacturers is adequate to meet the market.
However, retailers claimed that they were paying as much as $7,500-$8,000 per bag, Earlier this year, the Corporation revamped its list of distributors to protect the market and prevent smuggling. A number of areas had claimed that there were shortages.
Recently also, GuySuCo said that it was investigating how a shipment of rice contained sugar that was obviously smuggled from Guyana. It was also investigating reports that at least one distributor was overcharging buyers.
Rice prices, hovering around $3,800 per bag a few weeks ago, have also jumped to $5,500.