Bolivia Donates $2 million in rice to Cuba
Posted: Internationalon Jun 29 |
In a move that has polarized politicians and the press, the Bolivian government announced yesterday that it would be donating 3,000 metric tons of rice, worth some US$ 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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