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Mar 27, 2015

Local Rice Producers Say They Can’t Reduce Cost of Rice Production

Rice producers have finally spoken on the hot button issue of the importation of rice from Guyana.  Since last week, it came to light that in May 2014, more than three million pounds of rice were imported in Belize at sixty nine cents per pound, re-bagged and then retailed at far above the controlled price. All that was revealed because a local businessman is seeking to continue with rice importation. Tonight, News Five Isani Cayetano has an update.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The rice industry remains under the looming threat of economic turmoil, amid a request by businessman Jack Charles to import bulk grain from Guyana for retail at a lower cost.  That expression of interest is of grave concern to local producers who have found themselves in the middle of a potential crisis involving the existing total per pound of rice.  The immediate point of reference, to contextualize this story, is the importation of three point two million pounds of white rice from Guyana in 2014, following a crop failure experienced by growers during that year.  Chair of the Belize Agro-productive Sector, a group which includes several large producers, is Dr. Henry Canton.

 

Henry Canton

Dr. Henry Canton, Chair, Belize Agro-productive Sector

“At that point in time we decided that we would be proactive and approach government, saying that because we are the producers of rice what we wanted to do was to have the right to import the rice and package it and send it into the same distribution channels that we had.  We had many meetings negotiating with government and rice was brought in at a quoted price of about sixty-three cents from Guyana.  It was brought in specifically into Circle R and then Circle R was going to do what they had to do with the rice to prepare it and if any community was short Circle R was going to supply those communities with rice for them to have their distribution system unbroken.”

 

The introduction of that tonnage came with additional costs, primarily due to the re-processing of what would otherwise be contaminated rice.

 

Stanley Rempel

Stanley Rempel, Managing Director, Circle R Products

“The rice came in loose in a container and we could have put have that rice on the market but we have to keep in mind that we would like to guarantee a product that the consumer accepts.  We can’t just put whatever product on the shelf and expect the consumer to buy it, right.  We had to take the rice to the mill and we processed it.  It was processed white rice but it needed further cleaning, packaging, bagging, whatever else, right.”

 

As seen here, grain imported from Guyana included a number of impurities.

 

Stanley Rempel

“First of all there was a lot of shells in the rice which had to be graded out.  We have buckets of screws and nails and rocks and dirt and filth that came out that I’m sure no consumer would like to see in their bag of rice when it hits the shelf.  So the reputation that we have, we would like to keep the reputation and therefore, we had to further process that rice to guarantee the consumer a safe product on the shelf.”

 

The supplementary charge for the processing of imported rice brings the cost to well within the controlled price of ninety cents per pound.  The significant markup then takes place at the retail level where profit margins are seemingly unchecked.

 

Arturo ‘Tux’ Vasquez

Arturo ‘Tux’ Vasquez, President, BCCI

“There is a price control on the productive side of this thing but not on the retail side and I think that’s really where the problem is.  You can sell rice for whatever price you want, I understand, so the person that is supposedly importing this current amount of rice that we are talking about really is not a retailer.”

 

The importation, through the Belize Marketing and Development Corporation, was done to ensure that there wouldn’t be a paucity of rice and that prices would remain constant at the wholesale level.

 

Dr. Henry Canton

“So what we were trying to do is to make sure that there is not a shortage in rice.  But we were insistent that the people who import rice have to be the producers of rice and it was government’s job, and that’s why they brought it in through BMDC, to make sure that we don’t bring in rice at a price that’s going to affect the market substantively.  Because the rice we brought in is rice that we had to bring in that fitted within the category of the price that we were selling rice for at that point in time.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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2 Responses for “Local Rice Producers Say They Can’t Reduce Cost of Rice Production”

  1. meandi says:

    Ok – so let the man bring his rice. If people want they can still buy the 1.20/lb rice or choose the cheaper one. Business is business, competition is healthy. So all the extra work done to the “bulk rice” warrants a hefty Increase? We people want options, stop making those decisions for us.

  2. CEO says:

    Oh well! That’s just too darn bad!

    Then try to sell it elsewhere on the world market or take a cut in your profits.

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