Yesterday, Sergio Garcia, the personal advisor for Jack Charles, the importer who has caused a major controversy in the rice industry, spoke to Love News and explained why Charles is importing Guyanese rice in the country. Garcia explained that Charles only wants to import twenty percent of Guyanese rice and sell it at a cheaper price. In that interview yesterday, Garcia, who is also the former Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, brought up the small rice farmers in southern Belize saying that the Government of Belize is paying them a meager price for their rice. However, Jose Alpuche, the current CEO in the Ministry of Agriculture, told us that is not so.
“If you ask what has happened to the producers in the south have anybody asked the Mennonites that? Currently how much do you think BMDC pays the rice producers in the south? Will Mejia this morning said .30 cents. So you are telling me that these producers in Toledo are more efficient than the producers in the north. You need to ask these questions of them, I know the answer. Let me just say this; the Belize producers use a lot of technology, they don’t use much labor and everything is mechanized and their cost of production is much lower than what they are saying. They are very efficient producers if you compare them to the Guyanese producers, a lot of the Guyanese producers are small farmers. Now, I don’t want to say, and I think somebody should have done an analysis of their cost of production and maybe the media should ask that an independent cost of production be done, but maybe if the Mennonites are not competitive or the large producers, because nobody had spoken about the Southern Producers. A couple years ago there were over a thousand farmers in Toledo, did you hear an outcry on the media that the monopoly of rice was taken over by these four or five processors? Nobody said anything.”
“It was reported to me that there was this absolutely deliberate attempt to suggest that we are not paying farmers down south, which we are paying farmers down south and there was another deliberate disinformation that we are paying farmers .30 cents a pound while the Mennonites need .80 cents to survive. What we pay .30 cents for is rice paddy. There is a milling cost and a whole lot of other costs related to that. Pech knows much better what it was and he should not have been disingenuous in suggesting that there is some sort of price gouging or that we are trying to take advantage of the small farmers.”
Charles’s container full of rice is expected to be in the country tomorrow morning.