(GINA) Chairman of the Guyana Rice Development Board, Claude Housty, has stated that government has settled all of its financial obligations with rice millers.
The GRDB executive joined the Acting General Manager of the GRDB Nizam Hassan and GRDB executive Dr. Peter De Groot for an in-depth examination of the local rice sector with GINA recently. According to Hassan who also supported the statement made by the GRDB’s Board Chairman, “All the millers have been paid moneys that were owed to them by the Government of Guyana”.
It was explained that some millers may still owe rice farmers but this is due to private contracts for other markets that they have exported rice to. This Hassan said the GRDB “didn’t have those contracts”.
The current issue of some rice producers being owed by millers has been compounded by the fact that supplies were purchased, with prices based on the demand and prices obtained via the Venezuelan markets, Dr. De Groot added. He further explained, “When the Venezuelan market came to a sudden stop, millers were caught with stock on their hand. This was purchased at a high price, higher than the millers could make money on…Millers are caught with stock on hand that they have difficulty in exporting and they will not be able to export it and make a profit”. The aforementioned, he said, has contributed the difficulties some millers face in paying the farmers.
It was also revealed that there are an equal number of millers who are owed moneys by farmers, Dr. De Groot said, “Some of them finance the farmers in order to go back into the crop”.
Essequibo millers are often the least indebted, he noted, but with regards those in Region 5 and 6, “the reverse is probably true”. Moneys are sometimes advanced to farmers during the crops, to pay for fuel, fertilizers etc.
When the paddy is delivered, the moneys owed to millers are then deducted, he said. Weighing in on the issue, GRDB Chairman Housty remarked that oft-times, one side of the issue is being highlighted when there are several sides to it, “Many millers are also owed but many times you don’t hear about this”.
Recently, the GRDB released figures showing the names of millers who owe payment to rice farmers and urged those who still owe, to clear their outstanding debts.
Due to several reasons, Venezuela has suspended rice shipments but the contract, as agreed to under the Petro Caribe Deal, still remains in place.
Rice exports which accounted for most of the funds garnered, amounted to around 500,000 tonnes, of the more than 600,000 tonnes in 2014.
The temporary halting of rice exports to Venezuela has resulted in more of the staple being shipped to the European market, some 51% of production has been earmarked for this, Dr. De Groot said. The catch is, he added, is that the prices are much lower than those obtained for the Venezuelan market.
Production of rice currently stands at 23% more than for the same period last year, but it was pointed out that the actual value is less. Falling rice prices on the international market have been a trend for the last 6 months and this has significantly impacted on the local suppliers.
It was in light of this, that the GRDB is always seeking to get access into other markets and this is a continuous process, the GRDB Chairman Housty stressed.
These efforts must be formally set before being publicized, he said. Recent efforts in this area, has resulted in another contract being agreed to with Panama. Some 7,000 tonnes will be sent to the Central American country. Efforts are also being focused on other countries, including those in the region, to ensure that local rice producers are able to find markets.