The government, on Wednesday, said that it has released another $1.5B to assist in paying off rice farmers.
At the beginning of the week, Government intervened with about $600M and yesterday the Government released from the Petrocaribe account advanced payments, another $1.5B, taking the amounts so far for the second half of December, to $2.1B.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, at the beginning of the week, farmers were owed about $3B. After payments of the latest advances, which are expected to be completed by next Monday, the amount owed to rice farmers will be less than $1B.
“These are not loans, but payments made earlier so that millers pay off farmers.”
At present, the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) and the Rice Producers Association (RPA) are working with farmers to ensure that millers complete all payments before the end of the year.
“We urge the millers to work through their bankers to make all outstanding payments to farmers. While the Ministry acknowledges that a valiant effort was made by millers, we still believe that they must ensure 100% payment to farmers within the Rice Factory Act timeline.”
The accumulated sales of paddy by rice farmers to millers were more than $42B for the two crops in 2014.
“At this time, millers would have paid off more than $39B, or greater than 93%. While this is commendable, the millers must make an even greater effort to meet their obligations to farmers.
“Increasingly, the GRDB is making more rigid requirements on millers and we are cautioning millers that we will ensure that they pay interest on their debt to farmers in 2015.”
According to the Ministry, the industry has now closed off its harvesting, with a final production of 633,000 tons to date.
“This is almost 100,000 tons greater than the 2013 production and more than 200,000 tons than the 2012 production. The yield this year was about 5.4 tons of paddy per hectare or about 35 bags per acre. Harvesting was from 93,000 hectares. In terms of paddy, the country is close to achieving for the first time one million tons of paddy production. This was thought to be highly impossible for a country like Guyana.”
Export yesterday stood at 490,000 tons with further shipments to be made in the next week before the end of the year.
According to the ministry, “We are confident of reaching a historic milestone of 500,000 tons export for 2014.”
Guyana’s market for rice has expanded to several countries in Central America and “we are returning to pre-2010 export of rice to Haiti. Brazil and Columbia are also growing destinations for Guyana’s rice.”
Government also said that Guyana is continuing to engage several African countries which have expressed interest in rice. “Most of these countries are in West Africa and the 2014 Ebola crisis in West Africa delayed progress on realizing these new markets.”
In addition, several Middle Eastern countries have approached Guyana and these possibilities have been discussed. “In the meanwhile, we are settling the 2015 contract with Venezuela. Export to Venezuela accounted for almost 70% of Guyana’s rice production in 2010. Today, Venezuela is still one of our most important export destinations, but this destination only accounts for about 30% of Guyana’s rice production.”
Guyana’s rice industry is also poised for expansion into value-added products. While bulk export of rice continues to be the main export from the rice industry, 2014 evidenced the largest amount of packaged rice sold. Packaged rice export amounted to about 50,000 tons in 2014.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Commerce and IAST, rapid advances have been made in acquiring a rice cereal factory and we expect this to produce commercial quantity of rice cereal in 2015.”
Next year, Guyana is expecting its first major bio-energy plant which is replacing about 70% of fossil fuel utilization in the operation of a rice factory in Essequibo.
“The GRDB and the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the TERI Group is working to ensure at least three such bio-fuel substitution occur in 2015.
The TERI Group is also working with us to establish a paddy husk pellet project to utilize paddy husk for generating energy off-site.”
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