Reproduced from Breaking Belize News
The Belize Agro-Productive Sector Group (BASG), a private business whose main goal is to facilitate the development of the sugar, citrus, banana, shrimp agro-productive sectors, issued a statement Friday afternoon expressing grave concern over Guyanese rice soon expected to be retailed in Belizean grocery stores for less than the $1.29 local producers charge for the same pound
BASG expressed concerned over radio ads announcing Guyanese rice which will be retailed for 69 cents per pound saying though the price may initially sound appealing, it may have direct financial consequences.
How many Belizean farms, farmers, farmhands, millers and distribution workers will join the unemployment line as another agricultural product, Belizean rice, is removed from the products we produce here in Belize?” BASG pondered.
“Currently the Belize rice industry supports almost 100 local rice farmers, 5 milling companies, more than 2000 field workers, employees, distributors, and their families. This does not include a host of gas stations, fertilizer and agro chemical stores, restaurants and mechanic shops to name a few businesses that depend on our rice production. On the other hand, Guyanese rice will support ONE importer and a handful of distribution workers,” the BASG release said.
The importer BASG is referring to is business-man Jitendra Chaula, better knowns as Jack Charles. Several months ago Chaula has applied for a permit to import Guyanese rice but hadn’t been granted permission by the Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA).
Chaula initially complained to the media that he wasn’t being given a fair opportunity to be granted a permit then the situation went under the radar for months. In that time, apparently, Chaula’s permit was granted and he was commenced importation of rice from Guyana offering the rice at a cost local farmers cannot compete with.
BASG refuted Chaula’s previous claims that local producers have gouged the price to maximize profits.
“It’s a fact that our cost of production for rice is higher than most countries. But our retail price on the shelf is definitely on the lower end of the scale when compared to retail prices in Central American and CARICOM countries,” BASG said.
The company claims that millions of dollars in revenue to the government will be lost if the rice is imported adding that the 69 cent per pound pricing is unsustainable for the long-term.
“This low price is a ploy to have Guyanese rice enter the Belizean market. When our already stressed local rice industry becomes extinct, imported rice will then become more expensive with little to no benefit to Belizeans except to the importer!” the company warned.
According to BASG, rice farmers want lower rice prices on the shelves too and have been lobbying GOB for some of the same subsidies that are available to Guyanese rice growers and other big companies such as ASR/ BSI and Green Tropics/ SANTANDER; subsidies such as cheaper fuel, duty exemptions, tax breaks and other incentives.