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Shipment of Guyanese Rice Due In-Country

Jack Charles’ first shipment of Guyanese rice is on its way to Belize and is expected to arrive at the Big Creek Port tomorrow morning. We are told that several small rice farmers are planning to prohibit, at all cost, the rice from being off loaded from the container. However, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has voiced its concerns in favor of the local rice producers. A release from BCCI states quote, “The matter is more than just about the price of rice. Rather, if the importer is proposing to displace the livelihood of at least twenty percent of our Belizean rice farmers, there must be a commitment to following the requisite procedures in the proper order, so as to safeguard the safety of the consumer in the long term, and to prove that the quality and standards justify the social and economic loss to Belize” end of quote. The importer is saying that he has the right to import rice into the country since Belize signed on to the Treaty of Chaguaramas which not only established the Caribbean Community but also the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, allowing goods to move freely in the region as a basis for internationally competitive production. However, Charles needs to get a permit from the Belize Agricultural Health Authority and as of yesterday; we were told that he has not applied. The BCCI points out quote, “In the case of food and beverages, even those from Caricom countries, permits are often required, either for the protection of the local producer or farmer, and more often for the protection of the consumer. However, all required permits are to be applied for and issued in advance of importation, not when the product is sitting at the border. Doing the latter places unseemly pressure on the government to approve the cargo without following the requisite food safety procedures, which can have deleterious effects on the consumer and/or the economy” end of quote. The Chamber urges adherence to the rule of law and advocates for the processes to be followed for the sake of both the Belizean consumer and the economy on which we are all dependent.