Over 70,000 tonnes of rice exported in Jan-Feb

Guyana has exported over 70, 000 tonnes of rice for the year from the just under 140,000 tonnes carried over from 2014’s second crop and the first crop for 2015 is set to begin harvesting this month as questions persist about the adequacy of international markets.

The remaining 70,000 tonnes from last year’s second crop are still in silos. Stabroek News was told that the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) and the Ministry of Agriculture have resumed talks with the West African nation of Ghana to close a 120,000-tonne rice export deal which was put on pause last year due to the Ebola virus outbreak.

While Guyana’s rice is reaching the European, Central and South American markets, exports to the Caribbean Com-munity are lagging despite a Common External Tariff meant to give a competitive edge to rice produced within the region. With the exception of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago to which Guyana exports over 50,000 tonnes and over 24,000 tonnes respectively on an annual basis, the other markets are extremely small with a meagre 14, 000 tonnes exported to several countries.

In a private sector arrangement, Guyana is set to export 50,000 tonnes of rice to Haiti annually. Additionally, government assisted in a deal to have an additional 10, 000 tonnes of rice shipped to Haiti. The United States Department of Agriculture projects that this year Haiti’s rice consumption could be almost 500,000 tonnes of rice.

Stabroek News understands that Guyana’s largest export market remains Venezuela at just under 188,000 tonnes of rice per year. The five-year deal with Panama is also being hailed as a success as almost 10,000 tonnes over the annual 50,000 target has been exported.

With the rice harvest likely to commence a little later than usual this month, the sector is prepping for another record-breaking year. Last year over 635,000 tonnes of rice was produced while over 501,000 tonnes was exported.

Guyana continues its longstanding rice arrangements with Europe exporting 101, 000 tonnes there in 2014. In addition, over 311,000 tonnes of rice was exported to Central and South American countries inclusive of Venezuela, Panama, Nicaragua, Brazil and Haiti. According to the Agriculture Ministry, paddy production in 2014 was worth more than $44 billon with farmers receiving payments of $43 billion.

Responding to criticism by former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Alesie Group, Turhane Doerga, Agriculture Minis-ter Dr Leslie Ramsammy said that the mathematics being utilized by Doerga was incorrect. He said that with the current trajectory of shipments per month plus the country demand, there was not an excessive amount of rice in the system.

“For the three-month period between January and March when no paddy is produced, the country has to maintain a stock that will meet local demands and also to ship to clients who require shipments during that period,” Ramsammy said via a ministry statement on Wednesday.

Countering the minister’s response, Doerga and Jinnah Rahman of the   Rice Producers Associa-tion Action Committee (RPAAC) held a press conference at the Georgetown Club on Thursday and said that there are demands that need to be addressed to prevent a complete breakdown of the industry.

The RPAAC demanded that export facilities be re-launched in Georgetown and Berbice and the re-establishment of the Guyana Agriculture and Development Bank. The association also demanded an intervention fund that would help to secure paddy prices regardless of market forces. It is unlikely that the association’s demand will carry much weight as rice is a commodity and the prices are generally determined by the market unless a deal is struck such as the Venezuela Rice Agreement under the PetroCaribe deal that ensures above market pricing which can be between US$650-US$800 per tonne.

Because of the special provisions of the agreement between Guyana and Venezuela, the export price will always be higher than the world market, but fluctuations do occur.

Meanwhile, the GRDB is still monitoring the situation in Black Bush Polder, Corentyne where farmers are owed a large amount by the Black Bush Mill.

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