With the first shipment of paddy en route to Venezuela, Minister of Agriculture Dr Leslie Ramsammy is anticipating that over 40,000 tonnes will be sent to Venezuela by the end of August.
On Wednesday, the cargo vessel UBC Montego Bay was being loaded with just over 5,500 tonnes of paddy and Ramsammy pointed out that while this was the first shipment, Guyana has already sent six shipments of rice to Venezuela as part of the 2013 arrangement.
The minister said things were moving quite smoothly now that the product was being moved from the mills. He noted that while Venezuela was the largest market for both paddy and rice, smaller shipments of paddy had gone to Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and other Caribbean countries.
Ramsammy said Guyana was pleased with the Venezuelan agreement and a more long-term partnership was still being discussed for the exporting of rice and paddy. Since the inception of the PetroCaribe agreement, it has been done annually, with the Letter of Commitment signed by both countries on the amount of rice and paddy Guyana is expected to export to Venezuela.
Venezuelan Nutrition and Food Safety Minister Felix Osorio and Minister Ramsammy signed the 2013 Letter of Commitment in May. It will see Guyana supplying 140,000 tonnes of paddy and 70,000 of white rice to Venezuela for 2013. Ramsammy later visited Venezuela on May 15 to arrange for the shipments to commence.
Rice farmers throughout Guyana were growing impatient with the length of time the Letter of Commitment was taking to be signed. Essequibo rice farmers had held daily protests over the low prices being offered by millers for paddy. Millers, too, were frustrated with the backlog of paddy that was awaiting shipment to Venezuela. Because they were storing the paddy and not being paid for it, millers could not keep up with payments to farmers.