SAJ rice mill looking for second deal with Haiti by year end

The SAJ Rice Mill at Burma, Mahaicony is looking to secure another 50,000 tonne rice deal with Haiti by the end of the year.

Speaking with Stabroek News the mill’s general manager, Carlos Carbos, stated that the Haitian owned mill is looking to increase its export deal and that the 50,000 tonne deal signed in March of 2014 was just the first step.

He said that currently rice is being exported on a bi-weekly basis but he would not disclose what they were being paid for it because they wanted to maintain competitive prices. He did indicate, however, that the deal was a profitable one and as a result SAJ would be looking to expand as soon as possible.

Carbos told Stabroek News that the venture was moving smoothly so far and that there had been very few obstacles. The partnership with the millers, he said, would ensure that over 5000 tonnes of rice were shipped on a monthly basis.

The SAJ mill representative stated that rice has already arrived in Haiti and the feedback has been positive. He said that owing to the increase in rice production markets had to be aggressively sought to ensure that rice was exported quickly in order to free up space at the mills.

Guyana had a record-breaking rice production year in 2013 with over 532,000 tonnes produced – almost 30 per cent over the 413,000 tonne target. In 2014 the agriculture ministry had already stated that with more 224,000 acres under cultivation it would not be surprising if Guyana’s rice production exceeded 600,000 tonnes.

SAJ is in a comfortable position as it is a Haitian owned mill operating in Guyana. The agriculture ministry is hoping that with a newly formed milling representative body, millers will work more closely with the Guyana Rice Development Board in acquiring new rice export markets.

Stabroek News understands that a miller’s body is in the process of being finalised. Prior to 2010, the year the first rice agreement between Guyana and Venezuela came into operation, all rice was marketed and sold by the private sector.  The ministry and the GRDB are looking to push this idea once again and have farmers and millers take a more proactive approach to their well-being. Stabroek News was told that millers  grew accustomed to the preferential pricing under the Venezuela agreement and began to rely too heavily on it.

This newspaper was given to understand that under the Venezuela agreement the value placed on a bag of paddy was $3800-4000. In the years since 2010 Guyana has produced more rice annually while the agreement with Venezuela has not changed; as a result farmers and millers have been forced to accept world commodity prices which have been steadily falling. Currently global rice prices are around US$447 per tonne, having declined since July of 2013 from US$538.26 per tonne.

Meanwhile Agriculture Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, during his 2014 budget speech on Thursday stated that over 29 per cent of the first crop has been harvested representing around 100,000 tonnes of milled rice. He said that “in 2012, export to Venezuela accounted for about 70% of Guyana’s rice export. In 2013, it accounted for 58% and we expect that it will be about 38% in 2014, not because of a reduction in the amount going to Venezuela, but because export size would have grown.” The Venezuelan agreement is firmly set at 210,000 tonnes of rice comprising 140,000 tonnes of seed paddy and 70,000 tonnes of white rice to the value of US$130 million.

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