The cultivation of rice in Guyana dates back to the eighteenth century when it was first introduced by the Dutch. Since its introduction, rice cultivation has improved and increased tremendously over the last few decades. Despite a decline in production last year by 12.7 %, due to El Niño weather conditions, the Honorable Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder, anticipates that there will be a production increase of 1.3 % this year. With vast stretches of land in Guyana, and the commitment to implementing good agricultural practices and standard requirements, rice production can increase immensely, putting it among the top foreign exchange earners.
In today’s advanced world, the use of improved technology, knowledge in rice production and marketing have given developed countries an edge in the world market, but Guyana has the potential to expand its market share to become one of the top rice producing countries.
However, it is a fact that local rice producers and exporters are facing heavy competition in foreign markets especially with numerous trade barriers, such as tariffs, quotas, standards and licensing requirements. Standardisation continues to be one of the most critical barriers and the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) has opted to play a critical role in ensuring that Guyana is among the top countries involved in the exportation of rice.
Recognising the importance of rice cultivation and exportation and their value to Guyana’s economy, the GNBS has adopted the Guyana Standard “Rice- Specification” (GYS 211: 2014) as a national standard. This standard was developed to improve the quality of rice produced and sold in the Caribbean Community and other overseas markets. Additionally, the standard outlines specific requirements for paddy grades, cargo rice, milled rice; cargo parboiled rice and milled parboiled rice. It also covers packaging and labelling along with the conditions for sampling and the various factors used to determine rice quality. The standard is available for use by farmers, millers, exporters and any related personnel and its implementation will result in improved quality of the commodity for both the local and international markets.
The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) facilitates training on the regional standard for stakeholders, such as millers and exporters. Effective implementation of the requirements of this standard can reduce errors in grading and the rice milling processes, thus making operations more effective. The standard allows personnel to perform to their highest levels, which results in quality output and ultimately when a quality product is produced, customer satisfaction is guaranteed. This allows millers and exporters to maintain their market shares and profits. The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) certifies graders annually and ensures that competent graders are available in all regions and millers also have access to certified graders.
It should be noted that the rice industry was boosted with the accreditation of the Central Laboratory of the Guyana Rice Development Board in 2015. This facility provides grading certificates which accompanies batches of rice exported and has boosted confidence in the quality of rice exported from Guyana.
Increased production of quality rice will always be a plus for Guyana, providing buyers with the confidence they need at the time of purchase. With rice being one of the world’s most popular choices of meal, it is assured that the demand for rice around the world will increase and the GNBS through standards and verification of weighing and measuring devices used in the rice sector will continue to support the industry in meeting market requirements. With this support, Guyana can once again work towards reclaiming its honour of being the bread basket of the Caribbean.