Rice farmers operating at break-even prices – region’s Chamber
… call for more lucrative markets to be secured for industry
The rice sector in Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara) is responsible for a significant proportion of Guyana’s rice production. But according to business leaders in the region, farmers with no way out of the industry are predominantly operating at a break-even point.
According to the President of the Region Three Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Radesh Rameshwar, this situation was brought to his attention through complaints from rice farmers in the region.
He estimated that approximately 95 per cent of the farmers who would have been planting during the previous season, have returned to continue doing so. But he noted that the price they were getting per bag of paddy continued to be a challenge.
“Obviously, we know that the price for rice has been a challenge for them,” he related, in a recent interview. “And most of them are complaining that now many of them have to work at a break even cost right now.”
“But what else can they do? So they’re trying their utmost best, hoping that the price will improve. And that (more) markets can be secured for them, so that they can be able to get better prices for their paddy.”
Traditionally, diplomatic envoys have been seen as the brokers of economic pacts with other countries. So much so that last year, President David Granger had charged new diplomats to strengthen their economic diplomacy and market Guyana’s products in a more forceful manner.
Last year, the Agriculture Ministry disclosed in July that 17,000 tonnes of paddy were shipped to Mexico in a deal said to be worth some US$17 million (GY$3 billion), and 43,000 tonnes more will be shipped to the Central American country over the next few months.
However, the days of farmers getting premium rates for their paddy crops have since passed, following the end of the PetroCaribe (rice-for-oil) deal which was cancelled by Venezuela in 2015. Under that arrangement, farmers accrued primum per bag of paddy, but this has been reduced to between $1800 and $2500, depending on location.
When Guyana Times interviewed farmers in July, their reluctance to engage in production this year was noted, but they took into consideration that some of them are owed for their produce. One miller who owes farmers millions of dollars had reportedly switched off his mobile phone and had refused to take telephone calls from farmers at that time.
This publication had also reported that a similar situation of non-payment obtained on the island of Leguan, where numerous farmers there had also not been paid for their paddy.
State of the sector
Collectively, recent end of crop figures provided by the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) showed that farmers harvested a total of 89,290 hectares or 23 per cent over the first crop 2016, resulting in a paddy production of 518,667 metric tonnes of paddy – 26 percent more than for the same period last year.
However, while there have been increases in production, the Rice Board has been grappling with a decrease in exports of rice and paddy for the first four months of the year. This is as a result of exports to the Panama market for the first crop not being realised.
For the first crop 2017, exports amounted to 239,442 metric tonnes, some 60,000 tonnes less that for the same period last year. Foreign exchange earnings from the export of rice and paddy amounted to US$92,026 million.