GEORGETOWN: The Government of Guyana says repeated high rice production levels have brought several challenges, ranging from lucrative markets to the capacity to store large amounts of paddy.
Rice and paddy production is estimated at 15.4 per cent higher than last year, while exports are 23.4 per cent higher.
Agriculture Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, said the government has made large investments in the rice sector over the past three years in the area of drying and storage.
However, the industry faces other challenges, such as the inability of millers to pay farmers in a timely manner, the need for energy efficient management at rice mills, and more emphasis on value added rice production.
Dr. Ramsammy said the government is sparing no effort to have more rice exported in a bid to reduce the need for storage space.
“On top of the European and Caribbean markets, Venezuela came on board and took up 70 per cent of all our rice and paddy,” he said. “Because of the price differential most of our farmers and millers opted for the Venezuela market and gave up some of the European and Caribbean markets. We have had to recover those markets in the last year…we are now looking for new markets.”
Ramsammy said the Ministry of Agriculture has managed to attract markets in Haiti, Panama and Belize and is looking to capture markets in Guatemala and several African countries.
Ramsammy said that Guyana has the capability to sell all 600,000 tons of rice produced almost immediately, but the country is used to premium price and in recent times, large world market competitors, particularly those from Asia, have been slowly infiltrating the country’s market domain, resulting in a decline in pricing.
In 2013, Guyana exported 395,000 tons of rice for a value of US$246 million and this year is expected to produce over 600,000 tons of rice.
The authorities say they intend to export more than 461,000 tons of rice noting that it would result in approximately US$251 million being ploughed into the local economy.