Greater Georgetown, Guyana – Jamaica and Guyana are to hold discussions at the highest level to find a solution to the current rice impasse.
The rice issue was raised at the just-concluded Twenty-Sixth Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) in Antigua and Barbuda, where discussions were held on Jamaica’s need for a stock of rice due to an emergency situation, and Guyana’s ability to supply the commodity.
Jamaica had requested a suspension of the Common External Tariff (CET) to import rice from extra-regional sources, but Guyana had indicated it could supply Jamaica’s demand for the commodity.
Suriname, which also produces and exports rice, indicated its ability to supply to Jamaica, but is prepared to agree to the suspension of the CET as a special consideration of Jamaica’s emergency needs.
At the conclusion of the one-day meeting on Saturday 10 May, H.E. Amb. Irwin LaRocque, Assistant Secretary-General, Trade and Economic Integration (TEI), said the Heads of Government of Jamaica and Guyana are to hold consultations and inform CARICOM Secretary-General H.E. Edwin Carrington on the outcome.
With regard to ensuring the effectiveness of the Monitoring Mechanism for Rice, Member States of the Community were urged to submit data on the production, import and export of rice and the application of the CET. The reports, covering the periods January to June and July to December are to be submitted twice yearly.
Member States have also agreed to continued discussions towards the resolution of issues relating to the import of flour by Antigua and Barbuda under the provisions of Article 164 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. In accordance with a mandate from the Twenty-Fourth Special COTED, Secretary-General Carrington delivered to the Meeting a report based on discussions with Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada on the supply price of flour. Antigua and Barbuda is currently importing flour from Guyana and is continuing to receive supplies from St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Meeting has mandated the Secretary-General to bring the parties together to seek a resolution on the modalities for determining the price of flour.
Although COTED recognized the recent increases in the international price for wheat, several Member States expressed concern about the rising cost of flour and the implications for the cost of living.
The discussions on rice and flour preceded one on the Rising Cost of Living requested by the government of Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua and Barbuda reported on the steps it was taking to deal with the high prices of goods. Ministers agreed to keep the rising cost of living on the agenda of future Meetings of COTED. The Rising Cost of Living is an agenda item of the upcoming Twenty-Seventh Special COTED Meeting on Agriculture scheduled to be held in Guyana later in May. That meeting will focus on food production in the context of poverty and the rising cost of living.