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Jan 7, 2016

CARICOM Secretary General Weighs in on Rice War

The rice war between importer Jack Charles and various stakeholders, including producers in three Mennonite communities within the local industry, has been covered extensively since the issue resurfaced in early December and it continues so tonight. At the center of the standoff is whether or not rice from Guyana can be imported into the local market. While everyone has weighed in on the subject from a national perspective, very little, if nothing, has been said from a regional standpoint since there is potential for far reaching implications depending on the outcome of the matter.  The importation of rice from Guyana has a lot to do with the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (C.S.M.E.).  The existing framework, under the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, allows for the free movement of goods, services and people across the Caribbean.  The Belize Agricultural Health Authority, BAHA, has maintained that Jack Charles did not have an import permit prior to bringing in three containers of prepackaged rice. The court has also determined that Charles did not have the requisite license to bring in the staple. But can the businessman be prohibited from importing the same rice on a subsequent occasion once all the necessary requirements and paperwork have been satisfied?  According to CARICOM Secretary General, Irwin LaRocque, an SPS certificate cannot be used by any government agency to block the trade of goods across member states.

 

Isani Cayetano

“There is an ongoing situation with regards to the CSME framework and the fact that there is a local importer who is intent on bringing in rice from Guyana into the Belizean market.  Have you been following this situation from your seat as the Secretary General of CARICOM?”

 

Irwin LaRocque

Irwin LaRocque, Secretary General, CARICOM

“Well I only learnt of this when I arrived in Belize on Tuesday.  I do not have the full particular.  So what I can say is that in terms of trade in goods, of which rice is a product, there ought to be free trade in goods and it’s my understanding that your Supplies Control Act of Belize does allow for free trade in rice.  However, there is also the requirements of plant and animal health which is a legitimate requirement on importing food items into a country to have the relevant SPS certification to allow for such import.  It is my understanding that the problem that was faced by the importer is not having obtained requisite SPS certificate and if I am correct then I think that it is a legitimate concern that such a certificate ought to take place.  What I will say generally however, is that sanitary and phytosanitary issues as what they are referred to, issues that have to do with animal health and plant health cannot and ought not to be used as a protective mechanism and ought not to be withheld based on protecting a particular sector.  It is only to protect the public at large from a health, animal health and human health and plant health standpoint and that is what is here.  It’s a legitimate concern that all countries have, it’s fully recognized by the WTO, it’s fully recognized by CARICOM in our treaty.  But it ought not to be used and should not be used as a protective mechanism for those who are producing.”

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1 Response for “CARICOM Secretary General Weighs in on Rice War”

  1. CEO says:

    I believe in free trad because in the end it is better for consumers and to be honest too much of everything in Belize is politically controlled but what the heck does all what you had to say mean?

    So we should just accept it Mr. Secretary?

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