Combine harvesting rice on 162-hectare farm in Mahaica-Berbice
Courtesy Inter-American Development Bank (David Mangurian)
Bags of rice awaiting processing, with silos for storage in
Courtesy Leslie B. Johnson, Sr.
Rice production in Guyana reached a high of over 180,000 tons
in 1984 but declined to a low of 130,000 tons in 1988. The
fluctuating production levels were the result of disease and
inconsistent weather. Droughts and heavy rains had an adverse
effect on rice crops because the irrigation and drainage systems in
rice-growing areas were poorly maintained. The area under rice
cultivation fell from 100,000 hectares in 1964 to 36,000 hectares
in 1988, according to the Guyana Rice Producers' Association.
Most rice farms in Guyana were privately owned; the government
operated the irrigation systems and rice-processing mills. This
division of the industry resulted in several difficulties.
According to the United States Embassy, the government neglected
irrigation and drainage canals because private farmers refused to
pay taxes for their maintenance. Meanwhile, the government-run
mills were reportedly slow in paying farmers for their crops. In
addition, the government-controlled distribution system for
tractors, fuel, spare parts, and fertilizer was highly inefficient,
according to some reports. In 1990 the government began privatizing
the rice industry by putting several rice mills up for sale.
The bulk of Guyana's rice production was consumed domestically.
Even so, exports took on increasing importance during the 1980s as
a source of foreign exchange; there were even reports of rice being
smuggled out of the country. Guyana shared a quota for rice exports
to the EEC with neighboring Suriname but was unable to fill the
quota during the late 1980s. In 1988 the government set a 1991
production goal of 240,000 tons and an export goal of 100,000 tons.
In the first quarter of 1990, however, exports fell to a record low
of 16,000 tons, for an annual rate of less than 70,000 tons. Half
of these exports came directly from private farmers, the other half
from the Guyana Rice Milling and Marketing Authority.
Data as of January 1992