Supermarkets worried rice supplies may run out
From Left: Dr Ralph Gonsalves and Zulfikar Mustapha
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June 21, 2024

Supermarkets worried rice supplies may run out

by Eldonté Samuel

Supermarkets are now limited to purchasing only a few hundred sacks of rice from the ECGC Rice Mill, as a result of an apparent scarcity of the commodity on the local market.

Consumers too, are also now being limited to purchasing five pounds per person as the outlets seek to prevent hoarding, employees have said.

Supermarket operators around Kingstown checked by SEARCHLIGT have said they are increasingly worried that their rice supply might run out by week’s end.

Guyana is the largest supplier of rice to St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), but there seems to have been some issues with the Guyana supply.

Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves on radio earlier this month said he may look to Brazil to fill the gap as there were production challenges and damaged supplies from Guyana. The Prime Minister said he had sent a letter to the President of Guyana, Dr. Irfaan Ali, seeking assistance in this matter.

A DEMARA Online News article however, quoted Guyana’s Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha, as saying there was no shortage of Guyana rice in SVG.

He was reacting to the Prime Minister’s claims that there is a shortage of that grain from Guyana due to transportation issues and reported fungus.

While Dr Gonsalves had flagged the likelihood of St Vincent and the Grenadines turning to Brazil for rice, Mustapha said he and officials  of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), recently held discussions with Minister of Agriculture, Saboto Caesar, importers, and suppliers from Guyana who all concluded that there was sufficient Guyanese rice in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“There is no shortage. There was probably a miscommunication…We agreed that there is no shortage of rice from Guyana,” the Guyana Agriculture Minister told Demerara Waves Online.

Guyana is the largest supplier of rice to St Vincent and the Grenadines, followed by Brazil, then Canada, and the United States, as well as Turkey. Local rice imports from the South American country totalled US$2.93 million in 2022. In 2023, Guyana exported rice valued at US$1.93 million to SVG, as reported by the United Nations COMTRADE database, which monitors imports and exports. This represents a decrease of 34% from the previous year.

In a two-year project (2019-2021), to address issues to rice production in Guyana, the Islamic Development Bank in an overview had listed limited rice varieties, severe infestation of weeds, pests, and diseases, and inadequate coordination, among the challenges that the rice industry in Guyana was facing.