Agriculture Minister Hon. Gaspar Vega says Guyana does not have problem with Belize not importing rice Print E-mail
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Thursday, 21 January 2016 00:00

During the months of December, 2015 and January 2016 the controversial rice imported from Guyana dominated the airwaves in Belize. It came to a showdown and in the end the courts supported GOB’s decision to not allow the Guyanese rice to hit the grocery stores’ shelves. The Importer, Jack Charles, was given the option to ship his rice out of the country following the court order.

In the wake of this protracted rice controversy, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture Gaspar Vega and his CEO Jose Alpuche made an official visit to Guyana to meet with their counterparts. Whilst in Guyana our emissaries met with Honorable Noel Holder Minister of Agriculture and Honorable Carl Greenidge Minister of Foreign Affairs with whom they discussed the current rice situation and how both countries will handle it.

In an interview with the media upon arrival to Belize from Guyana, Honorable Vega elaborated, “We thought that due to present circumstances with the rice, it was just proper for us to go and visit with my colleague Minister of Agriculture Hon. Holder. We also had a meeting with Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Grinage. We also met the CEO and chairman of the Guyana rice development board with whom we discussed the present situation of the rice. They already knew of the breach or the breaking of the law by the importer. They knew about it.”

When pressed if the Guyanese felt slighted by Belize’s refusal to import the Guyanese rice Honorable Vega said, “By no means. In fact they can recall that when we imported early 2014 we had to go through that process to ensure that the supplier was complying with food security that the food was safe enough for us to import and in this case we needed to ensure the viability of our rice industry. We discussed that in detail and we even discussed that we must look for a way forward in ensuring the food security.”

Honorable Vega stressed that in 2014 it became necessary to import rice but it was due to a production shorfall that year. That is not this case this time around and it is in the best interest of Belize to safeguard our food security and the viability of the local rice industry. If there is a need to import in the future, the two governments are looking to set up a team to discuss the possible signing of a bi-lateral agreement in the near future. In the mean time the government of Belize is working closely with rice farmers to ensure that we don’t have a shortfall and also negotiating for the consumers to get better prices at the grocery stores.