– As production keeps climbing
Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy says that the overwhelming success of the rice industry in terms of repeated bumper crops has brought with it, huge challenges ranging from lucrative markets that are readily available and the capacity to dry and store large amounts of paddy.
The latter has seen the Government making major investments in the sector over the past three years in the area of drying and storage. Other challenges include millers’ inability to pay farmers in a timely manner, need for energy efficient management at rice mills, and for more emphasis on value added rice production.
These constraints notwithstanding, rice and paddy production is 15.4 percent higher this year when compared to the corresponding period last year, while exports are 23.4 percent higher. Minister Ramsammy said the Ministry is sparing no effort to have more rice exported, thereby reducing the need for storage space.
He noted that if the sector has to store and keep rice for an ideal pricing, then there would not be enough storage capacity and this is a major area of concern.
In 2010, the sector struggled tremendously to meet the market demands for both rice and paddy.
“On top of the European and Caribbean markets, Venezuela came on board…and Venezuela took up 70 percent of all our rice and paddy and because of the price differential; most of our farmers and millers opted for the Venezuela market and gave up some of the European and Caribbean markets. We have had to recover those markets in the last year…we are now looking for new markets.”
The Agriculture Ministry has managed to attract markets in Haiti, Panama and Belize to which a significant amount of rice and paddy is already being sold. Additionally, the Ministry is looking to capture markets in Guatemala and several African countries.
Minister Ramsammy explained that Guyana has the capability to sell all 600,000 tonnes of rice produced almost immediately, but the country is used to premium price and in recent times, large world market competitors (particularly those from the Asian continent) have been slowly infiltrating the country’s market domain, resulting in a decline in pricing.
Meanwhile, the Ministry is looking at other ways to ensure that the rice industry remains viable and resilient despite the challenges. In this regard, it is exploring more efficient energy management using the rice husk. This can be used to produce energy for mills, and bricks and pellets that can be utilised by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) at the beginning of the grinding season.
Not only will this reduce the cost of energy for the sugar industry, but will also contribute to safer environmental practices. The Ministry is also looking to boost agro-processing using rice to add to wheaten flour via cereal and beer among other products.
Minister Ramsammy said, that this means that the rice industry will continue to move forward creating more products and generating more income for the country.
In 1990 the country reaped 90,000 tonnes of rice. In 2013, Guyana recorded a production of 535,000 tonnes of rice of which it exported 395, 000 tonnes generating US$246M in export value.
The country is expected to produce over 600,000 tonnes of rice by the end of 2014.
Only about 120,000 tonnes of rice is consumed locally which would mean, that the remaining amount is exported and contribute to the local economy. This means that export markets have to be found for the remaining amounts.
The country is also looking at surpassing 461,000 tonnes of rice for exportation by year end; this would add approximately US$251M to the economy.
Apart from higher production levels, the industry has also better yields in terms of rice variety. The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) had developed 14 new rice varieties which are cultivated by approximately 20 farmers.
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