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Guyana clinches five-year rice deal with Panama

Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy and Panama’s Vice Agriculture Minister Dr Esteban Giron inks agreement Looking on is President of Panama Mr Juan Carlos Varela (Min of Agri photo)

Panama has agreed to buy rice from Guyana during the next five years, with a total of 20,000 tons expected to be sold to that Central American country by year-end, Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said Saturday.

He explained that after Guyana would have exported 5,000 tons of white rice per month from mid-September to December, 2014 the two countries would negotiate annual agreements. He declined to disclose the purchase price, citing the competitive nature of the international rice market.

The deal was inked on August 14  in Panama by Ramsammy and that country’s Vice Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Esteban Giron.

Although experts have been raising concerns about the future of the lucrative Venezuelan rice market due to political and economic uncertainties in that neighbouring Spanish-speaking country, the Agriculture Minister assured that rice exports  to that country were intact “Venezuela is stills secured,” he said. At the same time, he said government was working to secure new markets to avoid over-dependence on any single market. “The goal is to ensure no single market is more than thirty percent overall so as to ensure a problem in a market does not create a crisis,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

Ramsammy further informed that Venezuela and Guyana have begun talks to conclude a 2015 contract much earlier than this year. The delay in the 2014 contract had caused some unease among rice farmers and millers here.

Rice and paddy sales to Venezuela this year will account for 35 percent of total projected exports of more than 461,000 tons although the actual amount would on average be the same as previous years.

Panama imports about 150,000 tons of rice annually, through the private sector. The initiative to import about 50,000 tons of rice through a Government to Government arrangement is seeking to ensure people have access to an important dietary staple at affordable price as the Government of Panama try to control cost of living in Panama.

“The agreement means that Guyana can supply more than 50,000 tons of rice to Panama on an annual basis through the Government to Government arrangement and also compete in an open market to supply some of the remaining 100,000 tons per year,” the Agriculture Minister said in a statement.

With this new export for 2014, Guyana is expected to export between 475,000 to 500,000 tons for 2014 and to reach about 550,000 tons in 2015. The actual export target for 2014 was 460,000 tons. The export in 2013 was 394,000 tons.