Granger: Guyana rice industry to important to fail
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.
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 crude under the trade component of the PetroCaribe oil deal.
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.
'too big to fail'
President Granger told the meeting that rice, the country's largest foreign-exchange earner, was "too big to fail" and assured them that his government came to office with a vision to sustain and improve the industry.
He acknowledged that production costs were high, making the commodity uncompetitive on the global market.
More than 75 per cent of Guyana's rice is sold to over 40 countries, but the president said the country needed more markets.
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," said Granger.
Rice is second to sugar as Guyana's most important agricultural industry, contributing approximately 20 per cent of agricultural GDP and 12 per cent of export earnings. In addition, in excess of 12,000 farmers are involved in rice production.
Agriculture Minister Noel Holder has said that some of the major challenges to the industry were drying and storage; marketing and compliance by millers; and improving varieties.
The government is contemplating a revolving fund to alleviate the woes of rice farmers who have been battling with millers over late payments, Holder said.