The AFC’s recent statement on the rice sector in Guyana lacks ingenuity and several of the so-called proposals are a rehash of aspects of the Rice Sector Strategic Plan which is currently being implemented.
Long before the AFC’s Mr Khemraj Ramjattan and his opposition cohorts proclaimed “involvement” in the rice sector, the very issues that they have now researched and are pontificating on as ideas of their own to restructure the rice sector were being implemented at various levels through the Ministry of Agriculture and Guyana Rice Development Board.
The AFC’s statement is therefore a repeat of the IDB-sponsored 10-year strategic plan for the rice sector which is currently being pursued by the GRDB and this administration. The many issues raised by that party are irrefutable evidence that he is unaware of the dynamics of the sector and is therefore misguided on how to pronounce rationally on its future; or, as many of his ilk in the opposition seem to be doing, will-fully misguiding members of the public and more particularly, the thousands of farmers in this country, to score political points and secure their goodwill.
The rice sector of Guyana has many challenges indeed but efforts at both the national and sectoral levels are being vigorously pursued to increase industry efficiency and enhance its competitiveness.
The Ministry of Agriculture has been consistently publishing verifiable information in the media on the measures undertaken to improve and thereby enhance the economic situation of the sector.
Notwithstanding this, however, due regard must to given to the fact that rice is the world’s staple so its production and trade are ultimately governed by the uncontrollable factors of climate and the political dictates of a very inflexible international commodity market.
Therefore, it is more productive for all involved, whether farmers, millers, exporters, input suppliers, service providers and a whole gamut of others, to be engaged in constructive and logical discussion rather than impregnating the minds of the public with political propaganda.
Through this approach, the rice sector has made tremendous strides over the last fifteen years after decades of PNC state-controlled decadence and mismanagement. Apparently, the AFC’s appearance in the dailies as a saving grace of the sector will enhance the current position of rice farmers, but really, the only beneficiary of his utterances is he.
If the check boxes were to be ticked then all the issues raised by the AFC would have been addressed over the past years and like all other traded commodities, rice is no different.
Of the 550 million tonnes of rice produced globally every year, only a minimal 4-5% is traded. But whilst this may be insignificant, Guyana is one of a handful of countries that is a net rice exporter.
As such, the industry’s participation in the international market is necessary but the conditions of entry and access are non-negotiable, at best because of the negligible 0.007% space Guyana absorbs, albeit in preference-giving segments of the market, namely Caricom and Europe.
Therefore, political popularity and farmers’ hoodwinking by the AFC would not resolve issues of a global nature. The approaches and interventions currently being pursued by this administration are probably most suited and relevant to addressing the needs of farmers and future of the rice sector.
Interventions of enhanced research capabilities, reduced yield gap, vertical and horizontal diversification, institutional strengthening, infrastructural enhancement in drying and storage, port development and continued and improved D&I services are at the forefront of the rice production agenda to support farmers as they grapple with the constraints of climate change and international competition.
A point to note is that this year rice production will be the highest in Guyana’s history. Isn’t this a sign of much progress and the results of strategic planning and action?
For more information the AFC’s Mr Ramjattan is urged to contact the GRDB or Ministry of Agriculture where the Rice Sector Strategic Plan, EU feasibility study, Rice Competitiveness Project Completion Reports, etc, would be made available for his perusal and reference.
Guyana Rice Development Board