Guyana and Jamaica on Friday clinched a one-year Memorandum of Under-standing (MOU) under which Kingston will purchase 60,000 tonnes of rice for 2009.
The MOU was signed by Minister of Foreign Trade, Henry Jeffrey and Jamaica’s Minister of Industry, Invest-ment and Commerce, Karl Samuda at the Georgetown Club. The sealing of the MOU came in the wake of complaints by local producers that Jamaica was not living up to its commitment to purchase a total of 60,000 tonnes of rice this year from Guyana. High-level talks were subsequently held between Guyanese and Jamaican officials to clarify this resulting in the MOU. Samuda had been here for last week’s rice festival.
The MOU released by the Ministry of Agriculture sets out what was agreed:
“1. For the period of one year commencing from January 1, 2009, Guyana will make available to Jamaica, sixty thousand (60,000) tonnes of rice at market prices at an average of 5000 metric tonnes per month over a twelve month period.
2. Prices negotiated between exporters and importers at the commencement of the crop or contract period will be applicable to that crop or contract period.
3. As of January 1, 2009, Guyana will not impose an export commissionon rice exported to CARICOM member states.
4. Where Guyana is unable to supply it will immediately notify Jamaica and will not object to a request by Jamaica for a suspension of the CET on an amount to be agreed to by both parties.
5. Exports and imports will be monitored by the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) on behalf of Guyana and the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce (MIIC) on behalf of Jamaica, respectively.
6. This Memorandum of Understanding will not supersede the existing arrangements between Guyana and Jamaica in respect of the trade in rice.
7. Subject to contractual dispute settlement provisions, where a dispute arises among importers and exporters concerning the interpretation and/or application of this Memorandum of Understand-ing, the GRDB and the MIIC will collaborate to mediate said dispute.
8. Where a dispute arises between Guyana and Jamaica arising out of the interpretation and/or application of this Memorandum of Understand-ing the countries will first seek to settle the dispute through consultations between the GRDB and the MIIC. Either country may thereafter have recourse to any of the other dispute settlement procedures set out in the Revised Treaty of Chaguara-mas establishing the Carib-bean Community including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.
9. This Memorandum of Understanding will enter into force upon signature by Guy- ana and Jamaica and shall remain in force until Decem-ber 31, 2009, unless otherwise agreed.”
The Government Informa-tion Agency (GINA) had earlier reported that Minister Samuda said that last year Jamaica had purchased approximately 50,000 tonnes of rice but in 2009 his country would increase its rice imports to 60,000 tonnes.
He said also Jamaica wants the relationship between the two countries to be further strengthened.
The Minister commended Guyana for celebrating its 100th year of exporting rice and added that it has provided a foundation for the next generation. And citing “severe challenges to provide food,” he encouraged Caribbean nations to expand their capacity to grow more food.
Samuda remarked too that arable land for agriculture is shrinking and there is need to replenish those areas. In countries such as China, he said, there is a shortage of water which was due to the increase in technology such as high speed water pumps.
In the meantime, he commended Guyana for its interest in the agricultural sector. In CARICOM, he said, there were only few countries that offered opportunities for food production – namely Guyana, Belize and Jamaica and to some extent Suriname. This was by and large as a result of them having arable lands for agriculture.
GINA quoted Samuda as saying: “We in Jamaica realize the importance of putting more lands into agriculture,” and he added that Jamaica had endorsed the offer by President (Bharrat) Jagdeo for investors from the Caribbean to invest in Guyana so that Caribbean nations could expand food production not only to serve the immediate Caribbean Community but elsewhere.
The Jamaican Minister, GINA reported, urged the Caribbean region to put greater investment into agriculture which would offer the Caribbean people “a better quality of life.”
Agriculture, he noted, has great potential in the region and he called on Caribbean nations to seize the opportunity since “no one is coming to our rescue.” He added that these nations should come together and help themselves.
Samuda observed that Jamaica is a net importer of food and only last year the import bill was approximately US$375M more than that of exports. The high price of oil has resulted in a large trade deficit to the CARICOM countries.
He said that the decrease in demand on the world market would not benefit Caribbean nations and added that the banana industry was now a “thing of the past.”
Meanwhile, in Jamaica they are re-focusing on the domestic market rather than on the international market, the Minister said, noting that Jamaica had failed to become competitive on the international sugar market.
The only solution to all these problems in the region, according to the Jamaican Minister is co-operation which he said, “will lay a solid foundation for the community.”
By 2010, Samuda said a foundation would be laid for meaningful expansion for Guyana’s exports which should have been there in the first place.
He urged Guyana to get more involved in packaging so as to capture attention on the world market. This, he added, would be “marketing in a dynamic and modern manner,” so in this way Guyana could take on “big players” like the United States.
However, Samuda urged Guyana not to forget its traditional markets in which Jamaica is a part.