Not likely with relations and economic problems facing Venezuela – Holder

Opposition pushes for renewal of oil for rice deal…

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) on Thursday sought to fulfil its promise of reaching out to the A Partnership for National Unity/ Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government, by offering much more support to what the PPP said is a weakened rice industry, which today has left hundreds of farmers in economic turmoil.
However, that was yet again shut down by Agriculture Minister Noel Holder.
PPP’s Executive member and Member of Parliament (MP) Irfaan Ali suggested that Government, through the Agriculture Ministry resume ties with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, so that some amount of relief could be had among rice farmers here.
Government, following its ascension to office last year, had announced that Venezuela would no longer engage Guyana in the PetroCaribe deal; a trade agreement which saw Guyana, along with a number of other Caribbean countries, trading rice for oil. Since the loss of that market, farmers and millers alike said things have not been the same.
Ali proposed the motion titled “The state of the rice industry in Guyana” which highlighted the plight under which rice farmers have found themselves.
He reminded the House of Government’s campaign promises for the rice industry; a promise, Ali said, was designed to “fool and deceive farmers”. He said Government has a role to play in the sector, noting that it has to provide key elements including infrastructure, development of capital through education and public health and investments in research and technology among others.
According to Ali, it is “discernable” that the relationship between Guyana’s Government and the Government of Venezuela did not start off on “the right footing”
“Mr Speaker, I will adumbrate the social and economic reasons why the Government should resume talks with Venezuela on the exportation of rice and paddy to this country,” he said.
According to the MP, many farmers had to seek extensions on their mortgages because they could not make the agreed premium. Businesses also have been affected because there is less disposable income of residents.
He said his party wants to see Guyana move forward and noted that it was even willing to assist in this regard. He said Government needed to “suppress their pride and take our suggestion in good faith”.
To this end, Ali put forward nine recommendations. Through several recommendations, Ali said Government should resume talks and negotiations with the Government of Venezuela, remove all form of taxes and duties on fuel for the industry, work with financial institutions to refinance loans and farmers, suspend payment of land leases and Drainage and Irrigation charges, lay supplementary provision in the National Assembly to provide financial support to farmers in order to aid in the purchase of seed paddy and fertilisers, to immediately implement minimum export prices and paddy, and implement an aggressive marketing strategy in order to enhance current prices and secure new lucrative markets.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder acknowledged that the rice industry is faced with challenges; however, he said that under the PetroCaribe Agreement, Guyana signed contracts with Venezuela and has honoured all such contracts.
According to Holder, the Venezuela rice trade has totalled some 624,647 metric tons of paddy and 355,628 metric tons of white rice valued at US$594,918,265 (paddy) and US$282,272,790 (rice). He said during that period, the rice industry saw some positive transformation as farmers and millers were able to increase their investments over the years.
The Minister said however, it is a known fact that the contract with Venezuela was renounced by the country itself and Guyana’s efforts to resume shipments were unsuccessful.
“We are all aware of what has happened to the price of oil and the serious economic problems Venezuela is facing as a nation. It is inconceivable that deals that are comparable in volume and price often past are achievable again,” he said.
Minister Holder went on to address each of the recommendations proposed by Ali and has agreed to implement a few.