Venezuela orders second rice shipment under revised pact

Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) General Manager Jagnarine Singh is currently in Caracas signing the purchase order for the second shipment of rice and paddy under the recently revised US$21.7M deal.

This was announced by Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud during a press conference Thursday, during which he addressed the recovery plan for El Niño. Persaud said that despite the losses suffered during the dry season Guyana will still be able satisfy its markets.

On October 21 last year, the multi–million dollar rice purchase contract for the supply of 50,000 tonnes of rice and paddy to the neighbouring state – at a price higher than current export prices – was signed in the presence of Persaud, Head of the Corporation of Supplies and Services (CASA) of Venezuela Colonel Rudolpho Marco Torres, Singh and other officials of the GRDB. Several weeks after the signing, Singh stated that it would have been difficult to meet the demands of the deal but he remained optimistic.

The contract, when it was first inked, had been worth US18.8M. Issues encountered during the first shipment last December resulted in the decision to amend the current contract. Price, delays in off-loading, conditions for shipping white rice and a number of other factors were discussed and decided before exports were resumed under the deal. It was after negotiations between the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) and Venezuelan officials last month that the deal was revised to US$21.7 million.

Stabroek News had learnt that the second shipment of rice should have arrived in Venezuela during the first week of April. The remaining paddy and rice is expected to be shipped within a three-month period (ending in June or early July).  The shipments leaving these shores will be subject to the availability of vessels, among other aspects agreed to between the two parties. April is almost over and it is only now the second shipment has been finalized.

Before the contract’s revision was announced the ability to supply Venezuela had been questioned and the effects the El Nino condition were noted. Losses in the rice industry as a result of the dry weather, Persaud said Thursday, amount to approximately 8 thousand acres. The losses have not yet been given a “monetary value”, the minister explained, since it is still too early for some regions as all the losses have not yet been recorded. Despite this the production of the first crop this year exceeds the amount harvested during last year’s first crop, the agriculture minister pointed out, and farmers have been able to reap as much as 58 bags from an acre.

A release from the Agriculture Ministry about the points raised at the press conference said that farmers were advised by GRDB Extension staff since the sowing season of 2009 “to be careful as the prediction that we will not have enough water to take the crop to the finality, this was mainly in the areas that mainly dependant on rainfall, e.g. Leguan, Wakenaam and the front lands of the Mahaica and Mahaicony.”

The minister also said that $110M has been allotted to the recovery of the rice sector. About 900 small acreage rice farmers will receive seeds and fertilizers. Distribution will commence shortly and Persaud stressed that no cash will be distributed under this recovery plan.

There was also a recent outbreak of paddy bugs as a result of the recent weather conditions. However, the GRDB Entomology and Extension staff is currently distributing Pronto (insecticide) to farmers whose crop is in the flowering to milk stage. This exercise will cost approximately $5M; this sum is not included in the $110M allotted for the sector’s recovery.

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