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Dec 21, 2015

Foreign Trade Director Says RC Imports Didn’t Follow Proper Protocol

At news time tonight, there is no movement on the three containers of Guyanese rice at the Big Creek Port in the south and likely there will not be any offloading. That was the message from government officials today. On Wednesday night, RC Imports Jack Charles brought in the rice despite objections from local rice growers and the government of Belize. Charles says he can sell the rice on the local market at sixty-nine cents per pound, which is lower than the current retail price for the grade A staple. As it stands, the rice industry in Belize produces about nine thousand five hundred to ten thousand metric tons of rice, which is equivalent to twenty-one million pounds of rice. This meets the local demand for the year and there is no shortage of rice on the local market. C.E.O. in the Ministry of Agriculture says that the Guyanese rice is being dumped on Belize because Venezuela is no longer importing the product from that country. And according to Foreign Trade Directorate, Doctor Leroy Almendarez, arguments by RC Imports are flawed as it relates to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy in respect of trade and the protection of less developed countries such as Belize.

 

Leroy Almendarez

Dr. Leroy Almendarez, Foreign Trade Directorate

“It depends on which part of the treaty they were quoting and because there are so many different parts of it. Let’s take for example, at the Council of Trade and Economic Development, which deals with trade issues—one of the main organs of the revised treaty. You must also understand that the purpose of this revised treaty is integration. Integration simply means we come as one common market place—and indeed we do not entertain unfair competition. What we should be entertaining is a form of collaboration because it is economic development for all member states, all fifteen that have signed on to this. The other thing is, Belize is an LDC under this treaty; Guyana an MDC, which is they are more developed, we are less developed. And the treaty specifically makes concessions for LDCs, these least development countries. But there’s another aspect of it. At the fortieth COAT Head, which I attended, we met with the Minister of Trade, we might with the Head of the GRDB—the Guyana Rice Development Board—and they assured us that it would be a government to government issue. If the government of Belize does not want the rice…in other words, if we are not opened to give market access to that rice, they will not impose it on us. I also met with the Honorary Consul of Guyana and this is what he said. In the event that there is a shortage of rice—meaning that if people want to consume more than what is produced; that will cause shortage in the economy and if that creates shortage—then it means that we would be open to importing. There is no shortage of rice in Belize; we have a surplus. The other thing I’ve heard is this whole thing about the fact that I will only import so much. Now remember, this individual that’s not the government of Guyana; that rice could have been bought much cheaper and be placed on the market. And believe me, under this treaty, it will cause harm.”

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