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Rice: a rising star in Guyana, Suriname

Rice: a rising star in Guyana, Suriname

Posted by PanamericanWorld on February 18, 2014

Guyanese farmers produced a record 535,000 tons of rice in 2013, eclipsing 2012’s mark of 423,000 tons and easily staking a claim as Guyana’s top agricultural commodity. That amount not only placed Guyana among the top rice producers in the Americas, it marks the first time that a Caribbean nation has surpassed the 500,000-ton mark. Meanwhile, production in Suriname experienced its fourth consecutive year of growth, with the 151,000 tons of milled rice representing a +4% YoY increase for 2013 and a high water mark since 1995.

The veritable rice boom is cutting into some established markets. Notably, Jamaica has traditionally sourced 20% of its rice from the United States, but recent years have seen its market share cut from 46,000 tons in 2008 to 3,300 tons in 2012 to zero in 2013, as Guyana and Suriname have muscled their way onto the scene. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) attributes the transition to quality and pricing. Indeed, Guyana and Suriname are spared CARICOM’s Common External Tariff, which imposes a 25% tariff on nonmember nations like the US.

Though the industry is faced with various challenges ranging from paddy bug infestations to fluctuating prices and flooding, the primary test will be to find new markets and grow existing ones. Both Guyana and Suriname have seen their market share in the EU shrink in recent years, and Guyana currently ships 300,000 tons of rice to a single destination—Venezuela.

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