GEORGETOWN, Guyana, CMC – The Guyana government, on Monday, sought to re-assure rice farmers here, that the industry is too important to the country’s economic fortunes to be allowed to fail.
“The problems in the industry can be overcome by cooperation and not confrontation. I am confident that there is a bright future for rice… rice is not in crisis, we have problems but the industry is not on the face of collapse,” President David Granger told a National Rice Industry conference attended by rice farmers here.
In recent weeks, rice farmers have been told that the authorities are seeking to renegotiate an initiative with Venezuela, under which Caracas bought rice in exchange for oil under the PetroCaribe oil deal it has with several Caribbean countries.
The Venezuelan authorities have indicated to Guyana that they are prepared to discuss continued shipments of rice and other commodities as part of a revised agreement for 2016.
President Granger told the meeting that rice, the country’s largest foreign exchange earner, was “too big to fail” and guaranteed that his government came to office with a vision to sustain and improve the industry.
But he acknowledged that the production of the commodity was high and therefore making it very uncompetitive on the global market.
Granger said, even though more than 75 per cent of Guyana’s rice production is sold to over 40 countries, it was important that new markets be found.
He called on private exporters to also demonstrate their capacity to penetrate foreign markets.
“If we are good at selling rum, we must also be good at selling rice… farmers must understand the need to reduce production costs,” he added.
Rice is second to sugar as the most important agricultural industry, contributing approximately 20 per cent of the agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) and 12 per cent of export earnings. In addition, in excess of 12,000 farmers are involved in rice production.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder, explained that some of the major challenges to the industry were drying and storage; marketing and compliance by millers; and improving varieties.
He said government was contemplating the establishment of a revolving fund to alleviate the woes of rice farmers, who have been battling with millers over late payments.