Private sector investment of more than $1.5 billion in key machinery and equipment for the rice industry in 2013 contributed significantly to an overall yield of more than 500,000 tonnes this year, according to Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) General Manager Jagnarine Singh.
Still buoyed by this year’s impressive rice production figures, Singh told Stabroek Business that the returns from the industry could not be separated from either the incentive of higher rice prices being secured from Venezuela under the PetroCaribe agreement or the sustained investment in the sector by both local and overseas investors,
Statistics produced by the GRDB indicate for that this year alone investors expended more than $878 million in tractors and around $580 million in combines. Last year, the sector acquired 232 tractors valued at $928 million and 30 combines valued at around $120 million. Between 2010 and the current time the more than 7,000 investors in the industry spent in excess of $5.5 billion acquiring 120 combines
Singh, who plays a key role in the technical negotiations associated with seeking to increase the volume of rice imported by Venezuela, disclosed that he is to travel to the Bolivarian Republic as soon as possible after the country’s politically significant December 10 municipal elections for engagements on an undertaken given that the volume of rice delivered under the PetroCaribe agreement would be revisited. Singh said his visit is also being undertaken in fulfilment of another GRDB commitment to the local rice industry, the acquisition of fertiliser for the rice industry from Venezuela. The PetroCaribe Agreement makes provision for the importation of 7,000 tonnes of urea from Venezuela. Singh said while the customary arrangement allowed for the delivery of a single shipment of urea annually, it could change to allow for the consignment to be delivered in two shipments beginning in January next year.
While declining to be drawn on the likely outcome of the forthcoming negotiations with Venezuela, Singh said increasing rice sales to Venezuela would work significantly to the advantage of the local rice industry since the PetroCaribe agreement afforded Guyana a significantly higher price than those afforded on its other regional and extra regional markets.
Singh told Stabroek Business that while the increase in rice output had focused the GRDB’s attention on the importance of accessing markets beyond those which it currently enjoyed, the challenge reposed in securing better prices rather than finding markets. He explained that Guyana was in a position to sell larger quantities of rice both in the region and elsewhere but was mindful of securing the best prices that it could for its rice. And the GRDB General Manager said that while the agency continued to facilitate the movement of rice to Venezuela and the payments to farmers under the PetroCaribe agreement, there were “significant opportunities” for millers to become involved in the identification of overseas markets for Guyana’s rice. “That in itself is an important area which people who understand the industry can explore,” Singh said.
The GRDB, meanwhile, still remains only partially satisfied with the timeliness of payments to farmers for paddy delivered to some local rice mills. Conceding that “some challenges still remain” Singh told Stabroek Business that the industry “as a whole” functions more efficiently when problems associated with relations amongst the stakeholders are kept to a minimum.