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Jan 14, 2016

DPM Gaspar Vega in Guyana Discussing Rice

Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega returns to Belize this Friday from Guyana where substantive discussions took place about rice and its importation into Belize. Belize is looking at a structured arrangement in respect of a bilateral agreement which would allow Guyanese rice into the local market but only when there is a shortage. The proposed agreement, as we understand it, does not contemplate the issue of cheaper prices for the staple, but rather it would give protection to the local producers. But for businessman Jack Charles who has been prevented from unloading three containers because he did not have the required permits; it appears that a major hurdle is now in his way for the three containers as well as for other planned shipments. News Five’s Isani Cayetano looks at the latest development in the rice conundrum.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Is businessman Jack Charles shut out from importing Guyanese rice to Belize?  Earlier this week, Minister of Agriculture Gaspar Vega, accompanied by C.E.O. Jose Alpuche, was on a working visit to Guyana.  During the brief stay, the Deputy Prime Minister called on Agriculture Minister of Guyana, Noel Holder, who tabled the idea of a bilateral agreement with Belize to provide rice in the event of a shortfall in local production.  That move comes a week after the Supreme Court rejected an application by the proprietor of Xtra House to seek judicial review of BAHA’s decision to quarantine a consignment of three containers.  In her decision, Justice Sonya Young upheld government’s position that Jack Charles had not obtained an import permit prior to bringing in a shipment of seventy-five tons of prepackaged, Grade A rice.

 

While Belize has imported rice from Guyana in the past, most recently in 2014 when there was a shortage of grain produced, there has been no formal trade agreement between both countries.  So, how does a rice accord impact the efforts of the embattled wholesaler?  For one, government has outmaneuvered Jack Charles, tacitly prohibiting the private sector, as a matter of policy, from importing rice, unless there is a deficit.  It’s a serious blow to the entrepreneur who, as News Five understands, has formally requested the importation of ten containers.  This, notwithstanding an agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture, that the cargo presently sitting at the port in Big Creek must be re-exported by January twenty-seventh.

 

This afternoon, Jack Charles expressed his disappointment, stating, quote, unfortunately, Belizean consumers will continue to pay higher prices for local rice, as consumers’ fate was signed by the Deputy Prime Minister in Guyana, unquote.  He goes on to say, quote, that it’s a sad day in Belize’s history where four producers with approximately seventy direct employees are favored over the three hundred and fifty thousand Belizean populace, unquote.

 

While Guyana’s rice production has increased significantly in recent years, Venezuela has discontinued trade in paddy and rice with its South American neighbor, forcing producers to look elsewhere for an available market.  In the meantime, Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega is expected to hold additional discussions with Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge in an effort to secure an import market should there be a shortage.

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3 Responses for “DPM Gaspar Vega in Guyana Discussing Rice”

  1. farmer from the North says:

    I support the local producers, to me current price of rice is ok. Jack Charles is not thinking about the Belizeans, he is thinking in making more money for his pocket!!

  2. Jambalaya says:

    Now let me get this right. JC does not want that 4 producers and their aggregate 70 employees supply the majority of the rice. Instead he wants to do it all by himself. Indeed a sad day. And if he is so concerned about the cost of living then why not drop the prices on all your other goods that you make a mint on? Your true colors are showing Mr. Charles!

  3. UNCLE BENJI says:

    We see more and more Belizeans returning from abroad with entrepreneurial skills and money to invest; but if the Dean AliBaBarrow government keeps screwing entrepreneurs, business people are going to shy away from Belize.

    Isn’t it ironic that con man Gappy Vega showed in Guyana and screwed businessman Jack Charles deal?

    Belizean business people living abroad are watching, observing and making notes such as “avoid investing in Belize. Dean & Gappy will steal your ideas, your business and screw you financially.”

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