President of the Guyana Rice Exporters and Millers Association (GREMA), Rajindra Persaud has expressed appreciation for pronouncements by President David Granger that the diplomatic service will be used to negotiate markets for Guyana’s agriculture produce.
Persaud told Kaieteur News yesterday that moves by the Government to seek other markets and in particular the Venezuelan market to sell Guyana’s rice and paddy, will help millers to sell excess rice and to create an increased demand.
“Millers will be happy if the Venezuelan market can open for business again, it will help us to sell the excess production. Even at market price it will be good to create the demand,” he said.
“What is important to note, though, is that Venezuela is one of a few markets we (Guyana) are targeting.”
He noted that other countries that import rice, such as Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Colombia and Belize have Free Trade Agreements (FTA’s) with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). According to Persaud, who also serves on the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) as a director, Guyana has not been accessing those markets.
CARICOM has bilateral agreements with a number of other countries around the world, including Australia, Chile, Bolivia, Canada, China, Ecuador, and members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
Guyana, along with other members of CARICOM, is party to these agreements which allow their exports to have preferential access to these and other international markets. The CARICOM-Columbia FTA has been in effect for 21 years and was one of the first formed in the Caribbean- Latin America integration process.
The Dominican Republic’s agreement went into effect in 2001, while CARICOM’s agreement with Costa Rica was operational in 2003.
“We are willing for the association to work with government to open access to the markets,” Persaud made it clear. “Colombia will import close to 1 million tonnes of paddy this year. (So) Venezuela is not our only solution.”
President Granger stated last week on his televised program, ‘The Public Interest’, that Government is renewing its focus on penetrating new markets. Some of the more well-known products that will be marketed will be Guyana’s rice and rum products.
Granger related that the new ambassador to Venezuela, Cheryl Miles, along with Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, and Foreign Minister, Carl Greenidge, have been tasked with exploring avenues to recover the Venezuela rice market.
He did point out that it would be up to Venezuela to renew the agreement, in which Guyana’s Spanish speaking neighbour exchanged oil for rice and paddy shipments.
The agreement was not renewed after coming to an end late last year amid icy relations with the country, but Venezuela had halted imports from Guyana months before and hundreds of containers were left on Guyana’s whaves.
The GRDB had reported in November 2015 that rice exports had increased by six percent between January to October 2015, compared to the corresponding period of 2014.
He had stated that for those ten months, Guyana exported 437,448 metric tonnes of milled rice. However, GRDB General Manager Nizam Hassan had stated that the industry had to deal with a fall in prices and the rice surplus which Guyana has had.
According to Hassan, almost 30 percent of the market exported was to Venezuela. In addition, Venezuela was paying US$780 per metric tonne to Guyanese exporters and millers, versus the average of US$390 per metric tonne.
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