By Jomo Paul
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo says that officials from the former People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) administration were aware of an impending collapse of the rice for oil (Petrocaribe) deal that Guyana has with neighbouring Venezuela; but this is being denied by the former government.
On Thursday, news broke that Guyana will no longer be exporting large quantities of rice to Venezuela, sending a wave of concern throughout the rice industry as the collapse signals a certain downturn for the sector, given the fact that rice farmers are fully dependent on the Venezuelan market to export their produce.
Nagamootoo in a statement explained that “it is necessary that it be noted there is documentary evidence that Venezuela’s decision was communicated to former Minister of Agriculture Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, former Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett and Guyana’s Ambassador in Caracas Geoffrey Da Silva.”
According to Nagamootoo, it is now left for the common man to ponder whether rice farmers and other stakeholders in the rice industry were being held hostage by the PPP/C administration.
“It is sad and inexcusable that the Guyanese people were not advised of this by the former PPP government. Questions will now have to be asked as to whether the Guyanese people, and the thousands of rice farmers in particular who could be affected, were being held hostage by the PPP’s silence purely for the purposes of narrow politicking,” the Prime Minister stated.
He affirmed that the government will “explore fully, all options to ensure that farmers and those dependent on Guyana’s rice industry are not adversely affected.”
Meanwhile, Former Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett told iNews that Venezuelan officials never confirmed that there will not be a rice deal in 2016; however the government was aware of the possibility.
She told iNews that in the past, Venezuela would posit that they were not interested in another deal but would later agree to a new deal with Guyana.
“The Venezuelans never formally informed us about that; they did say there might not be agreement in 2016…this was not new because they have said this before and the agreement was still renewed,” Birkett explained.
Efforts made by iNews to contact former Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy proved futile; however sources at the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) explained to iNews that the deal has not entirely collapsed.
It was noted that Venezuela stated they would be looking to import less rice from Guyana. The source also told iNews that every year a new deal is renegotiated between the two governments. The current trade deal that Guyana has with Venezuela is worth US$130M.