By Fareeza Haniff
[www.inewsguyana.com] – As a result of the former government’s “mismanagement” of the PetroCaribe Fund, the new administration has budgeted over $23B to pay over 7,000 rice farmers, Finance Minister, Winston Jordan has announced.
Guyana is actively in search of new markets for its rice, given the fact that the ‘rice for oil’ deal with Venezuela is on the brink of collapse as tension mounts between the two nations as it relates to the border controversy.
The APNU+AFC government is of the view that it is imperative for the rice market be sufficiently diversified so as to reduce the independence and vulnerability implied in the concentration of a large share of Guyana’s rice being exported to one market.
“We are actively searching for new markets for our rice. We are encouraged by the productive discussions during the national conference held with rice farmers and millers, and by the proactive response of those who have already begun to source additional markets,” Minister Jordan said in his maiden budget presentation on Monday, August 10.
Upon assuming office in May, the APNU+AFC government discovered that the PetroCaribe fund was bankrupt and had to find some $US15M to pay rice farmers for their produce.
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon had blamed the bankruptcy on the previous administration [People’s Progressive Party Civic] for the “casual and callous manner” in which they handled the proceeds of the arrangement between Guyana and Venezuela.
The Minister revealed that monies from the fund were used to construct the Hope Canal and other infrastructures, when it was not supposed to.
PetroCaribe is intended to promote trade amongst member countries, and Guyana has been supplying rice to Venezuela under the initiative. Under the current trade agreement, Guyana is expected to supply 210,000 tons of paddy and polished rice annually to Venezuela. The value of this supply amounts to US$130 million.