Relations between Guyana and Venezuela have deteriorated since the coming into office of the David Granger administration. A more than 100-year-old border controversy between the two countries had escalated in 2015 to the point where the Venezuelan government was no longer trading ‘oil for rice’ with Guyana. Although Guyana’s rice is no longer purchased by the Venezuelan government, but private buyers in Venezuelan Spanish-speaking neighbour have purchased thousands of tonnes of rice directly from Guyanese millers. Agriculture Minister Noel Holder confirmed this by saying “It is not government to government but private to private,” and noting that the arrangement sees buyers coming from Venezuela and purchasing directly from millers in Guyana. This arrangement has been ongoing for the past four- five months and the amount of rice already-purchased, some 10,000 tonnes, is expected to increase as the arrangement continues. Venezuela is currently experiencing an economic pitfall as global oil prices remain low; negatively affecting the petroleum-dependent country.
The Agriculture Minister of Guyana said that the government continues to engage with Panama, Mexico, Italy, and Spain on pursuing purchasing agreements with these governments and he expects the Mexican team in Guyana during January 2017. It is still too early to tell how much rice Mexico will purchase from Guyana. The Agriculture Minister explained Mexico’s rice demand is some 1.8M tonnes, while Guyana can only produce 600,000 tonnes. Answering a query the Minister said that Guyana government benefits from the rice trade between private players of Guyanese sellers and Venezuelan buyers. “Nothing can leave here without it being given a certificate and you got to pay US$ 8 a tonne on every tonne of rice that leaves. Every bit of rice leaving here, we have to give it a certificate before it goes on the boat.” Minister Holder explained, noting the Guyana Rice Development Board must approve of the shipment.