Minister of Agriculture, Gaspar Vega and his Chief Executive Officer, Jose Alpuche were in Georgetown, Guyana meeting with their counterparts and discussing the prospect of having Guyana be the go-to producer should Belize ever experience a short-fall in rice production. The duo returned today and we met up with them at the Philip Goldson International Airport to find out the outcome of this working visit.
Gaspar Vega: “Our visit to Guyana was one that we thought was appropriate. Guyana has always been a country with whom we have had very good bilateral agreements, they’ve been very supportive, we thought that due to the present circumstances with the rice it was just proper for us to go and visit with my colleague, we also had a meeting with the vice president and Minister of Foreign Affairs. We also met with the CEO and chairman of the Guyana Rice Development Board with whom we discussed the present situation of the rice.”
Vega told the media that Guyana officials knew of the situation with importer Jack Charles and that they were very satisfied with the decision to allow the rice to be re-imported.
Gaspar Vega: “They already knew of the breach of the law by the importer, they knew about it however we discussed and they were very happy that we had granted the importer the opportunity to re-export and during our meetings everyone, like I said we’ve been very lucky that Guyana’s government have been very supportive and we all greed that Belize needs to ensure food security for its country and in this case we needed to ensure the viability of our rice industry. We discussed that (rice industry) in detail and we even discussed that we must look for a way forward in securing the food security.”
Whilst in Guyana, Vega and Alpuche also met up with the Secretary General of CARICOM, Irwin LaRocque where other issues of food security and trade were discussed.
Gaspar Vega: “Late in the evening we paid a courtesy call to the secretary general of CARICOM his excellency Irwin LaRocque and we expressed to him our visit to Guyana. Of course he was aware of what was occurring in Belize but with Guyana we had intensive meetings where we even discussed the way forward with now only rice or agriculture even with setting up a joint team to discuss how we can enhance each other’s economy.”
As it pertains to the cost of rice and any future imports, Vega says he doesn’t see the price gouge to reoccur once the rice is acquired at a cheaper cost.
Gaspar Vega: “I don’t think that we would ever do that, not even contemplate that. I don’t know exactly what price the present import is buying and willing to sell for but I am certain that if the situation would appear where we would have a shortfall we would ensure that we would import from a CARICOM country like we’ve done from Guyana and we would just ensure that we get our investment back.”
Vega says that the interest was expressed for the establishment of a bilateral agreement but discussions will continue that may lead to the signing of such an agreement.