Rice roared again in 2015

–but export $$ down 15%

Rice production boomed again in 2015 following impressive harvests the last few years, however, the value of rice exports decreased by over US$37.6 million, a drop of 15 per cent from 2014, mostly owing to the loss of the Venezuela market and its preferential price.

According to the Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder the value of exports from January to December of this year was US$211.8 million compared to US$549.5 million in 2014.

Speaking at his ministry’s year-end press conference on Wednesday, Holder called rice a success story noting that up to December 16, paddy production was 1,051,563 tonnes amounting to 683,516 tonnes of rice. Last year’s rice production was 635,238 tonnes of rice, from 977,289 tonnes of paddy.

Holder stated that exports for this year stood at 510,807 tonnes compared to 501,208 in 2014.

When asked for specific statistics, Head of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) Nizam Hassan said he was of the view that preliminary figures of Guyana’s rice exports would be conflicting in the minds of the public should those figures not remain in line with the end-of-year figures.

Hassan said that while the European market became the largest importer of Guyana rice, filling the void left by the loss of the lucrative Venezuelan one, he could not provide a statistical breakdown. Stabroek News had requested additional information on exports by region and country.

Hassan stated that the industry is projected to continue growing next year and that weather would be the greatest factor. He made no mention of the struggles of rice farmers, the effects of losing the higher-priced Venezuelan market and the compounding impacts.

President of the Millers Association Dr Peter de Groot had told Stabroek News that millers and farmers were expecting minimal constriction of the industry due to years of delayed payments to farmers combined with low market prices.

Head of the Rice Producers Association Dharamkumar Seeraj had previously stated, “If Venezuela accounts for 38% of exports … it accounts for about 75%-78% of export earnings and that is the significance of the Venezuela market so whichever market replaces the Venezuela market by quantity will fall way short of replacing Venezuela in terms of value.”

Hassan stated that all exports to the EU were at world market prices. Currently, world market price for rice is just under US$360 per metric tonne; last year this figure was US$420. Rice has seen a steady drop in price over the last three years. In 2013, a tonne of rice on the world market sold for US$448, while in 2012 the value was US$590.

Under the agreement with Venezuela, Guyana had exported rice to that country at an average value of US$600 per tonne.

Hassan and the minister spoke briefly amongst themselves noting that Chairman of the GRDB Claude Housty was aware of recent reports emanating from Belize about dissatisfaction that Guyana’s rice would retail significantly cheaper than that produces locally.

When asked by reporters about this, Hassan noted that it was a private matter between the supplier and importer. He did acknowledge that both countries are part of Caricom, but added that Belize would have its own phytosanitary rules and regulations.

Hassan said that in the past cheaper rice from Suriname had gone to Belize, noting that this was a business transaction between two entities.

Meanwhile, it was also revealed at the year-end press briefing that 57 rice mills were licensed as of November and 101 licensed graders were operating countrywide.

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