Georgetown, Guyana- (July 27, 2015) President David Granger, this morning, called on citizens to “disabuse” themselves of the notion that the industry is in “crisis”, even as he acknowledged that there are some challenges. The Head of State was at the time delivering the feature address at the Ministry of Agriculture’s National Rice Industry Conference, which was held under the theme, “Sustainable development amidst challenges”.
In front of a packed audience at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre, President Granger assured stakeholders that his administration, like the entire country, is aware of the problems facing the industry and his government intends to bring an end “to the anxieties endured by those involved in rice production”.
“Rice faces challenges because of years of policy neglect, institutional decay and poor planning. We must convert these challenges into opportunities. I am confident that with the collaboration between the administration and stakeholders, the rice industry will overcome its challenges,” he said. President Granger expressed optimism about the future of the industry noting the high level of expertise and experience possessed by its stakeholders.
Speaking on the importance of the industry, President Granger said, rice plays a significant role in Guyana’s history, society and the economy. Currently, rice sustains the livelihoods of over 20 percent of the country’s population, creates jobs for thousands and is the only source of income for hundreds of farmers.
He said, “Rice has historically been resilient; rice has survived floods and droughts, rice has survived the volatilities of international markets…rice has always overcome its challenges.”
Noting that currently Guyana has about 40 external rice markets around the world and exports as much as 75 percent of the rice produced here, President Granger said that expanding markets continues to be a priority for this administration.
“New markets have to be found constantly to cater for the increases in production but the international market is highly competitive,” he said. In this light the President called for a focus on the lowering of production costs and said his administration is committed to ensuring that barriers to market access are reduced and removed.
The Head of State also touched on other issues affecting the industry, including the delay payments to farmers for paddy, inadequate storage for paddy, the challenge of producing value-added product and cost of production. He added that for the rice industry to be viable and sustainable, high production costs at all levels must be addressed.
“I would like this conference to seek solutions to these challenges rather than to allow our discussions to degenerate into a forum for confrontation or recrimination,” President Granger said.
President Granger assured the stakeholders at the conference that his administration is committed to the practice of economic diplomacy and supports the sale of everything produced locally. “Private exporters, however, must penetrate foreign markets,” he emphasised.
Meanwhile, Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder, in his remarks re-emphasised the importance of the industry, calling on stakeholders to look to the future and its further development.
He said, “In terms of food security, rice has helped to secure Guyana’s status as a food secure country. Over the years rice has excelled in terms of production, moving from 298,135 metric tons in 2007 to 635,208 metric tons in 2014. This represents a 113% increase in production.”
Referencing the need for a reduction in production costs, the Minister said, “Implementation of a rice marketing plan, improving productivity, improving operational efficiency in rice mills and the development of those value added products are things we can do collectively and individually to address this”.
As one of the pillars of our agricultural sector, the sale of paddy generates over G$ 50.B annually. Rice continues to be a major export commodity and a significant earner of foreign exchange as export earnings from rice have increased to more than US$250M annually.
Growth in the production of rice remains buoyant as Guyana recorded, last year, an annual production of over 974,000 tonnes of paddy, which converted to over 635,000 tons of rice.