Aug 04, 2010 News
– revamped co-ops key to implementation
By Leonard Gildarie
Guyana is exploring the possibilities of introducing an internationally recognized labeling system for rice exports that will attract better prices for small farmers from overseas buyers.
Experts of the Fairtrade Foundation, which handles the certification process, have conducted a study in Guyana which highlighted the need for an internationally recognized labelling standard which can gain better prices.
Yesterday, several rice officials met with Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, at his office, where the findings were disclosed.
Fairtrade is a strategy for poverty alleviation and sustainable development, and under its labeling and certification processes, it helps in creating opportunities for producers and workers who have been economically disadvantaged or marginalized by the conventional trading system.
In Guyana for the presentation yesterday were Fairtrade’s consultants, Philip Angier and Graham Young who noted that from the present system in Guyana, rice farmers end up with the least after everybody would have taken their cut. This may not even suffice to cover cost of actual production of the rice.
The officials opined that strong farmers’ organizations like the Guyana Rice Producers’ Association and other smaller bodies are ideal for Fairtrade conditions.
However, with several farmers’ association under the microscope for mismanagement, Young noted that there is still work to be done before any products can be certified.
While the Fairtrade programme is not designed for the larger farmers, it is ideal for small farmers’ group, like the co-ops.
The consultants pointed out that the ball is in the court of the stakeholders and while there is some funding available, stakeholders would have to find ways to ensure that requirements are met to ensure that Fairtrade standards are adhered to.
Yesterday, Minister Persaud noted that the rice market internationally is a volatile one and Guyana has to think outside the box. With Suriname and this country eyeing the Fairtrade labeling as a means to gain better prices, both are vulnerable to the price fluctuations.
Guyana alone exports 70% of the rice produced.
With the world production in rice over 460 million metric tonnes and Guyana only exporting over 200,000 tonnes, it is clear that the country is forced to take the prices offered, Persaud said.
Another factor that would compel Guyana to also contemplate moving to a internationally recognized labeling system is the fact that almost 60% of rice farmers plant less than 10 acres apiece. This together with the fact that some millers are paying late are all contributing to more hardships for farmers.
Although, there are legislations and more amendments being done to the law to bring more protection, government is continuously under pressure to seek new ways to diversify the market.
With the industry expanding and yields improving, Minister Persaud tagged the system as having the possibility of allowing small farmers to reap more benefits from improved prices guaranteed by the Fairtrade arrangement.
He alluded to the sugar industry where attempts are underway to improve co-ops and pointed out that the same is being done for the rice industry.
Over the past few years, the government has been stepping up its pressure to ensure that small farmers’ groups, like the co-op societies, are better managed. Several have been placed under interim government management.
Under Fairtrade, these small co-ops will be targeted, once they agree to be certified for inspection, and their facilities will have to be upgraded to meet international standards.
The Fairtrade ‘minimum price’ is the least amount that a buyer has to pay to a manufacturer for their product.
It is not a fixed price, but should be seen as the lowest possible starting point for price negotiations between producer and purchaser. It is set at a level which ensures that the producer receives a price which covers the cost of sustainable production for their merchandise. This means it also acts as a safety net for farmers at times when world markets fall below a sustainable level. However, when the market price is higher than the Fairtrade minimum, the buyer must pay the market price.
Buyers are also required to enter into long-term trading relationships so that producers can predict their income and plan for the future.
The Fairtrade premium is a sum of money paid on top of the agreed Fairtrade price for investment in social, environmental or economic development projects, decided upon democratically by producers within the farmers’ organisation or by workers on a plantation.
Present at the meeting yesterday were General Manager of the Guyana Rice Development Board, Jagnarine Singh, his deputy, Madanlall Ramraj, and several other officials of the rice industry.
Core homes attract over 200 applicants
The Housing Ministry’s mission to provide 113 affordable homes to low income families by the end of this year has sparked widespread interest with over 200 persons returning applications for the core homes project.
Community Development Specialist, Donell Bess-Bascom told the Government Information Agency (GINA) yesterday that the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) has received 263 applications so far.
She disclosed that interviews have been completed for four of the areas which are Lusignan Area ‘B’, Section ‘E’ Non Pareil, West Minster Phase One and Tabatinga, Lethem in Region Nine.
There have been 28 applications for Lusignan, 35 for Non Pareil, 72 for West Minster, 81 for Block ‘B’ Bath Phase One and 47 for Tabatinga.
“These are the ones we will be processing at this time. We had initially intended to construct 10 in Lusignan, 18 for Non Pariel, 30 for West Minster, 15 in Bath and 40 in Tabatinga but it is possible that these numbers can change after the evaluation process,” Bess-Bascom explained.
The Core Homes Project is a collaborative effort between Government and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and falls under the Second Low Income Settlement Programme (LIS) that will be executed at a cost of US$27.9M.
It is expected to improve access of low-income families to enhanced living conditions through a wide range of housing solutions and access to house lots.
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