GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Friday June 12, 2015 – The PetroCaribe Fund that was set up as part of Guyana’s rice for oil arrangement with Venezuela is just about empty.
And Minister of State in the Ministry of the Presidency Joseph Harmon says it means government will somehow have to find about US$15 million to pay rice farmers for the next shipment of rice to Venezuela.
Harmon blamed the state of the fund on “the casual and, in some cases, very callous manner” in which the previous People’s Progressive Party/Civic administration dealt with the proceeds from the PetroCaribe arrangement.
“The fund is almost bankrupt. There is nothing of it,” he told a post-Cabinet media briefing yesterday.
“It’s a very serious situation which we face. Monies were spent, which were not meant to be spent from this fund. A very serious level of mismanagement of the fund occurred.”
PetroCaribe allows participating countries to purchase oil from Venezuela on conditions of preferential payment. Some of the money is paid upfront while the rest over several years. Under a trade agreement with Venezuela, Guyana supplies rice to Venezuela and the proceeds go to the PetroCaribe fund which is used to pay the rice farmers.
But Harmon said some farmers have been turning up to say they were owed money.
To make matters worse, he said, there will be thousands of tonnes of rice with no market, with the industry projecting record production levels by October.
Harmon said Cabinet has therefore approved the establishment of a sub-committee to “aggressively” look for markets for Guyana’s rice.