Guyana is preparing for the first shipment of rice to Venezuela under this year’s quota, which will begin loading today, according to the Rice Producers Association’s General Secretary, Dharamkumar Seeraj.
Seeraj told Stabroek News on Thursday that the shipment is expected to be approximately 6,000 tonnes of rice. The Venezuela rice deal under the PetroCaribe Agreement was to be signed at the end of April, however there has been no official release from the agriculture ministry stating that this has been done.
The rice agreement, which began in 2010, caters for 210,000 tonnes of white rice and paddy to be shipped annually to Venezuela valued at US$130 million.
Seeraj told Stabroek News that Guyana has already been shipping rice to other smaller markets including Belize which is expected to take 33,000 tonnes of rice in 2014. Earlier in March, the agriculture ministry had dispatched a team from the Guyana Rice Development Board to Belize to court potential customers. Seeraj said that the GRDB has been a good facilitator but that millers needed to be more proactive in ensuring that there was growth in attractive markets. He said that the traditional markets such as Jamaica and Europe have also been receiving regular shipments, but could not give specific figures.
He said that with the ongoing exporting of rice, the large amount of on-hand rice has significantly diminished but that Guyana has already harvested over 150,000 tonnes for the first crop. “We have over 150,000 tonnes harvested already …Region 2 harvesting is nearly complete, in Region 3 it is about 85 percent completed, Region 4 is at 90 percent and Regions 5 and 6 are about 35 percent completed,” Seeraj said.
He further stated that the industry was anticipating anywhere from 235,000 to 240,000 tonnes for the first crop. Seeraj noted that “we are getting five tonnes per hectares so the figures are in keeping with what we expected because of the cultivation.”
Seeraj added that he was not aware off hand of the total amount of rice Guyana currently had on hand, but Stabroek News understands that while exports are moving, Guyana still has over 70,000 tonnes of rice in the system. This has reduced from the February to March amount of over 100,000 tonnes.
There had been concern that the volatile political situation in Venezuela has prevented the signing of the Rice Agreement. Local farmers have been worried that since the agreement had to be in place prior to shipments being sent that millers would not have the space to accept paddy from this crop and would offer lower prices.
Paddy prices have remained relatively stable in comparison to previous years – around $3,500 to $3,800 per bag of paddy, a drop from last year’s highest paid price of $4,000. Seeraj had noted previously that low global prices for rice meant millers could not pay $4,000 per bag and recoup costs.
Guyana had a record-breaking rice production year in 2013 with over 532,000 tonnes produced – almost 30 per cent over the 413,000 tonne target. In 2014 the agriculture ministry has already stated that with more 224,000 acres under cultivation it would not be surprising if Guyana’s rice production exceeded 600,000 tonnes.