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JIS News

Minister of Industry, Commerce and Investment, Karl Samuda, has said that the recent importation of 4,000 metric tonnes of rice from Louisiana in the United States was a “one-off importation,” noting that the decision was in the best interest of the local consumers.
Mr. Samuda was speaking to JIS News on (Oct. 11) shortly after meeting with Guyanese Agriculture Minister, Robert Persaud, and other local rice distributors, to discuss the way forward in light of Guyana’s opposition to Jamaica’s decision to import rice outside of CARICOM. Guyana has said that the move was in contravention of the CARICOM rules of trade.
“In keeping with our determination to foster good working relations with Guyana as a (CARICOM) member state, I gave him (Mr. Persaud) the assurance of the Jamaican Government that it is not our intention, and it will not be our practice to engage in any extra-regional purchases of rice.but it was necessary to protect the interests of the Jamaican consumers,” the Industry Minister stated.
He explained further that the decision to engage in extra-regional importation was necessary as Guyana was unable to meet the country’s increasing demand for the item in the aftermath of Hurricane Dean.
“There is an acute shortage of rice in Jamaica at this time. We recognize that there had been an increase of between 20 to 50 per cent in the demand for rice.
Guyana, although they had supplied an amount in excess of last year, it was not an amount sufficient over the last three months to meet the existing demand and as a result, we are short by over 80 per cent in the market at this time,” Mr. Samuda informed.
“When I am told that prices have moved from the vicinity of $20 per pound to as high as $49, I have an obligation to the Jamaican consumers to take whatever steps are necessary and appropriate in those circumstances to protect the interests of the Jamaican consumer. That is what I did by making the request for the waiver of 25 per cent under the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which gives us that authority because in emergency circumstances we can do that and we sought to exercise that right,” he pointed out.
Mr. Samuda told JIS News that Mr. Persaud has given his commitment to supply 4,000 metric tonnes of rice to Jamaica at the earliest possible time. “We are satisfied that there is a commitment on the part of the Guyanese Government through the Minister, who gave that commitment, to make available to Jamaica, sufficient rice so that it will not be necessary for us to engage in this step that we have taken”.
The Industry Minister disclosed that in a bid to ensure that there are clear lines of communication between the Guyanese Rice Development Board and the Ministry in the future, a monitoring mechanism will be established.
“This will ensure that there is adequate communication.so we will be able to know exactly what is being produced against the demand that is anticipated, so that we will avoid any disconnect that may take place similar to the one that has happened now that has caused this difficulty”.
In addition, State Minister, Michael Stern and another representative from the Ministry, will be leaving for Guyana next week to meet with the rice growers in that country, to sensitize them of the increasing demand for rice in Jamaica.
In the meantime, the 4,000 metric tonnes of rice have arrived from Louisiana and should be available to consumers shortly.
Mr. Samuda had announced at a recent post-Cabinet press briefing that Jamaica would be importing rice from Louisiana to prevent any possible shortage in the island. He explained that this was necessary as the regular shipment of rice from Guyana, which is Jamaica’s largest supplier of the staple, would not arrive in time, due to a shortage of output from farms in that country.