Dec 24, 2015 News
By Jarryl Bryan
Guyana’s rice industry has seen record breaking bumper crops in 2015, but according to figures released by the Ministry of Agriculture, there has been a significant decrease in money earned from these exports, compared to the corresponding period of 2014.
During a press conference, yesterday, at the Ministry, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder revealed that the value of the rice exports that Guyana has got for 2015 is 15 percent lower than last year’s. For 2015, Guyana earned US$211.8M from rice exports, versus US$249.5M in 2014.
As at December 16, 2015, paddy production stood at 1,051,563 tonnes. This is equivalent to 683,516 tonnes of rice.
The paradox comes as there have even been more exports for the period of January to December 16, 2015, than last year’s figures. According to the Ministry, up to December 16th, 2015, rice exports stood at 510,807 tonnes, while in 2014 exports were at 501,208 tonnes.
According to Holder, the loss of the Venezuelan market contributed to this disparity. Last month, the Venezuelan oil for rice agreement with Guyana came to an official end. The former arrangement saw Guyana exporting rice to Venezuela at concessionary prices, with the money saved going to a PetroCaribe account.
The money from the PetroCaribe account was used, among other things, for paying farmers in a timely manner. In the wake of the market’s loss, Government had identified several other target countries for Guyana’s rice, inclusive of Mexico and Portugal.
Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) General Manager, Nizam Hassan, revealed that the greater part of Guyana’s rice exports went to Europe. Europe actually filled the void created by the loss of the Venezuelan market, Hassan said.
He did admit, however, that this was at world market prices and not at any preferential prices.
Hassan also touched on the Mexican rice deal. Though not the first time Mexico has taken Guyana’s rice, the re-initiation of the trade agreement between the two countries was touted by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo.
According to Hassan, all the requisite information required by the Mexican parties has been provided and is currently being reviewed. He expressed optimism that by the first quarter of 2016, all issues relating to sanitary protocols will be finalized and export can begin.
Hassan added that the possibility exists that in 2016; there would be a small reduction in the volume of rice cultivated per acre. Hassan put this development down to the weather.
Many in the rice industry had projected even worse numbers of farmers moving away from the industry, as they continue to struggle with high production costs and little money to show for it.
“Once we get good weather in the first crop, we have projected that the growth that this industry has been experiencing over the past few years will continue,” Hassan said, “as well as maintaining and expanding markets.”
Co-Chairman of the Rice Producers Association (RPA), Jinnah Rahaman, also gave some insight into the present rice situation. According to Rahaman, the next rice crop is expected to see a marked drop in production.
“A significant number of rice farmers in Essequibo and other parts of the country have not been able to cultivate their lands due to low prices,” Rahaman, who also sits on the board of the GRDB, said.
Rahaman also asserted that farmers are very upset about the loss of the Venezuelan market.
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