Posted: Nate on Jun 29 | International
In a move that has polarized politicians and the press, the Bolivian
government announced yesterday that it would be donating 3,000 metric
tons of rice, worth some US$ 2 million, to Cuba. The donation is meant
to aid the island country which is still recovering after natural
disasters in 2008 damaged crop production. In addition to the
humanitarian purpose of the donation, Bolivian rice producers also
revealed a crisis in their sector as a result of the lack of domestic
demand and asked the government to aid producers. Álvaro Rodríguez,
director of the Support for Food Production Company (Emapa) said that
the first 500,000 kilos of the donation had been shipped to Cuba last
week and that in the future the company plans to send 60,000 bags of
rice per month. The president of the National Federation of Rice
Cooperatives, Gonzalo Vásquez, also confirmed that Bolivia has an
oversupply of rice and that the surplus this year will be more than
70,000 metric tons. Mr. Vásquez emphasized that rice growers are
approaching a crisis because there is not sufficient demand in Bolivia
with legal and illegal importation of the crop.
In 2008 Bolivia allowed importation of rice from Argentina, thereby
flooding the market and increasing competition for Bolivian producers.
Mr. Vàsquez indicated that exportation at international prices is not an
option for producers because prices are too low. Mr. Rodríguez said
that the shipments to Cuba will come largely from producers in Beni and
Santa Cruz states and assured the public that the government has a large
enough crop reserve to cover the donation and Bolivian needs. Mr.
Rodríguez also said that Emapa is working on establishing commercial
avenues to sell excess grain in the future.
Reactions to the announcement included outrage from several politicians
that the shipments had begun before the the plan was announced and
disappointment at what some politicians saw as pandering to political
allies. Representative Juan Choque (PPB) lamented that the government
seems more preoccupied with the food security of other countries than
that of Bolivia. Other politicians, such as Betty Tejada (MAS),
expressed approval that Bolivia helps countries which have lent aid to
Bolivia in the past.
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