EU could pull funds from Suriname’s rice industry

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, January 24, 2008 – Suriname stands to lose the bulk of the EURO 1.17 million Euros (US$1.73 million) in aid given to its rice industry as it fails to meet obligations under a project funded by the European Union (EU).

The country’s Planning and Development Cooperation Minister Rick van Ravenswaay has reported that over a year after the EU approved the funds, little progress has been made in the project which is using 700-hectares to increase sowing-seed production in the rice industry.

Under the November 2006 agreement with the EU, Suriname must complete the project by September this year.

But Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) Director Percival Marie has issued a warning that the funding could come to an end and the project’s failure could also cause further repercussions. He explained that because of the lack of progress in implementing the project, the region’s position in future negotiations with the EU could be weakened.

But Suriname’s Minister of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, Kermechend Raghoebarsing has dismissed charges that the funds may be pulled.

“There is some delay, but the funding is not in jeopardy,” he told members of the media, adding that Suriname was moving to have the project completed by the deadline.

He added that the country had been implementing several EU-funded projects ahead of schedule and the comments being made about the sowing-seed project was overshadowing all the positive work that was done.

Officials said that less than seven percent of the funds have been used, but the University of Suriname which along with the agro-research institutions Celos and ADRON is responsible for execution of the sowing-seed project, said 25 per cent of the funding had been spent.

Chairman of the university’s board, Li Fo Sjoe has insisted that the project will be completed in time.