In the light of the last crop’s “confusion” over paddy prices, the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) General Manager Jagnarine Singh says prices will remain steady, while assuring farmers, especially those in Essequibo, that millers have been found to be compliant with industry regulations.
Singh said that following the complaints by rice farmers about millers paying low prices for paddy during the second crop, the GRDB was fully utilising its 18-point checklist to ensure that millers were following regulations.
“We have a checklist… and when we went and visited all the mills, except one that isn’t operating right now, they were all 99 per cent in compliance,” Singh told Stabroek News.
He said that since the last rice crop, farmers had raised concerns that the GRDB had tried to address. “We have officers at the mills that are grading paddy,” he noted, while adding that paddy grading was done in the presence of farmers, millers and the GRDB representative.
Singh said that when the GRDB visits mills throughout the harvest, scales are checked to ensure that they are calibrated, the moisture seals are checked and both are verified by the Guyana National Bureau of Standards. He said that “we are going in and the Bureau is stamping what they need to. Farmers, they are getting a weight slip, a grade slip and a schedule.”
He said that informing farmers was taken as a priority since last crop’s various protests and “confusion” over paddy prices. Singh said that paddy prices for the second crop will remain steady. During the first crop, ‘A’ grade paddy was fetching $4,000 per bag.
Singh downplayed recent criticisms by farmers that paddy prices should increase due to the increase in production of the rice industry over the years. He instead said that what farmers failed to realise was that the PetroCaribe Agreement between Guyana and Venezuela sets a preferred price for paddy, while the global market is significantly cheaper.
He said that last year 66 per cent of Guyana’s crop was sent to Venezuela as part of the agreement. The same amount will sent this year, but will only be 50 per cent of Guyana’s total production for the year. The rice agreement between the two nations allows for 140,000 tonnes of paddy and 70,000 tonnes of white rice to be exported to Venezuela. Singh stated that “this year that extra rice is going to lower level markets… the government and the GRDB don’t set a price per bag of paddy for millers to sell at,” he added.
According to Singh, the government and the GRDB did work to suggest an appropriate price, but that millers were not required to oblige and neither were farmers obliged to sell their product at a lower price.
Previously Stabroek News was told by Chairman of the Essequibo Paddy Farmers Association Chairman Naitchram (only name) that Guyana was benefiting from a global increase in the sales of paddy and rice to Venezuela. “Three years ago we were selling to Venezuela at the US$420 and getting $4000 for a bag of paddy, now the price has gone up to US$520 and millers aren’t paying more for paddy,” he said.
This was rejected by Singh, who told Stabroek News that while Guyana was increasing its rice production, the lower level markets operated very differently and were subjected to global prices. He said that while millers benefited from the $4,000 per bag price, so did farmers because the global price per bag could be significantly cheaper than what they currently receive.