Guyana’s rice possibly going to Venezuela via Suriname

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 March 2016, 16:55 by Denis Chabrol

Although Venezuela has stopped buying rice from Guyana, government here believes that rice producers in Berbice are shuttling supplies across to Suriname for onward shipment to the Spanish-speaking nation which offers higher than world market prices.

Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman said based on casual observations rice production in Berbice has increased and locally produced grain is making its way to Venezuela via Suriname.

“I know, for example, that Venezuela is buying from Suriname and there are suggestions that some of our rice is travelling to Venezuela via Suriname. Certainly, there seems to be an uptake in rice farming in the Corentyne so there is something happening there so the prospects look good,” he told a post-cabinet news conference. He was unsure whether Guyanese rice was being exported to Suriname legally.

At the peak of a bitter border quarrel last year over the Essequibo Region and its Atlantic waters, Venezuela stopped supplying fuel under the PetroCaribe agreement and ceased buying rice from Guyana and instead turned to Suriname for grain supplies, moves that Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo has called an “economic blockade.”

General Manager of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), Nizam Hassan said comparative figures clearly show that there has been increase in rice exports to Suriname but he could not immediately say whether that was due to the Suriname- Venezuela rice agreement.

He said during January to March, 2015 Guyana exported  151 tons of rice to that Dutch-speaking neighbour compared to 249 tons from January to mid-March 2016.

Guyana hopes to export rice to Mexico and a country in Africa in the coming months.

In light of the loss of numerous acres of paddy due to the prolonged drought, Minister Trotman said government would be relying on expert advice from the GRDB and the Ministry of Agriculture to determine whether government should provide direct financial support  to farmers or negotiate with commercial banks.