As Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo continues his discussions with Mexican officials to iron out details of a rice export agreement, Mexico has indicated its willingness to fast track the paddy deal.
This is according to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), which revealed that Mexican Minister of Agriculture, Jose Calzada, has now given assurances that the paddy deal with Guyana would be fast tracked.
Calzada is reported to have also committed to encouraging the private sector to enter into contracts with Guyanese millers. The Paddy imports reportedly carry a nine per cent tariff.
It was first reported by the Office of the Prime Minister that Nagamootoo, while attending the Open Governance Summit in Mexico City on October 27, met with Minister Calzada. During that meeting a commitment was made to buy some of Guyana’s paddy.
The Government has been stepping up efforts, by using the diplomatic processes to find alternative international markets. The statistics released by Government show that Guyana’s production in the first half of 2015 was 359,960 tonnes, 15.3 percent more than last year’s record high first-half production of 312,283 tonnes.
Back in July, Venezuela had issued a directive for Guyana to cease all paddy and rice shipments to the country with immediate effect, months before the PetroCaribe agreement/contract was scheduled to come to an end.
Venezuela’s decision regarding the rice deal came at a time when it was claiming sovereignty over Guyana’s waters since the significant oil find by American oil giant, Exxon Mobil just 100 miles off of the Stabroek Block.
However subsequent reports had indicated that Venezuela had only instructed Guyana to ‘slow down’ shipments and return to the original shipping patterns. Agriculture Minister Noel Holder had also provided assurances that the deal was not in jeopardy, and that shipments had actually overwhelmed the Venezuelan rice officials, necessitating the directive.
Government acknowledgement that the deal was indeed off was followed by protests from rice farmers. These protests were visible as late as last week Wednesday, with farmers in Onverwagt, West Coast Berbice, protesting for similar interventions and concessions as other industries were getting.
Some of the farmer’s concerns include the fact that while their cost of production is about $100,000 per acre, they are only getting a return of $60,000 per acre.
This is coupled with the fact that many owe the bank and even millers for equipment, fuel and fertilizers and are also victims of delayed payments for the paddy already supplied, in contravention of the Rice Factory act.
The prevailing concern of many involved in the industry is that while other markets might be available, the concessionary prices that Venezuela once paid for rice would not be available.
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