• Mario Lara

What does Guyana have that Belize doesn’t when it comes to rice production?

Belize rice

What does Guyana have that Belize doesn’t when it comes to rice production? This question was posed at a Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture policy meeting back in 2013 according to an article published in Belize Ag Report. The answer given was that, “ Guyana has a culture of rice.” In other words – nothing really. Guyana doesn’t have any inherent advantage over Belize when it comes to the production of rice – Belize simply lack organization, strategic and coordinated direction. Aren’t we living in the age of information? Can’t Belize quickly learn from the mistakes of others and from its own mistakes from the past?

Back in 2011 when Peter Dyck, Managing Director of Hillbank Agriculture Company Limited announced that they were going out of business, he said that it was because they couldn’t compete with the subsidized rice being grown in the south and alleged importation of Uruguayan rice. He even mentioned something about money laundering and he laid the blame squarely on Belize Marketing Development Corporation (previously marketing board).

This time around importer Jack Charles alleges that the Belize Marketing and Development Corporation imported 3 million pounds of Guyanese rice last year and intentionally repacked and sold the imported rice under the name of local producers – gouging consumers. He says that he is simply trying to do the consumers a favor by not gouging them.

According to article published by Kaieteur News online, The Belize Agro-Productive Sector Group (BASG) refutes this allegation and says that producers didn’t gouge consumers and want to lower the price of rice but need subsidies similar to ones that Guyanese rice growers get and that other big companies such as ASR/BSI, Green Tropics/Santander etc. receive.

So, what is the truth? Are Belizean rice growers getting the right strategic support from GOB they need or not? Are some producers getting support while others aren’t? Why can’t Belize rice producers (north and south) work together to compete against Guyana? How much longer do Belizean producers need to be protected from cheaper imports for them to be able to compete? If Belize is signatory to CSME can they even be protected without violating this treaty?

Does Belize depend on large scale mechanized rice farming in order to be food self-reliant? Or, should Belize focus on areas where it can earn sufficient foreign exchange earnings to import the stuff it can’t produce more cheaply than its competitors? What about Permaculture (something I’m just learning about after reading a comment by Christopher Nesbitt on different thread) – is this another option? What say you, Christopher? I wish I knew the answers. Richard Harrison, can you help to educate me and others? You always seem to have good research and informed opinions.

Read the entire Facebook thread discussion here

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