The National Rice Conference 2016 is an initiative primarily of three well-involved experts in the rice sector of Suriname. Realizing the strong existing necessity for improvement of the rice production utilization, enhancement of the rice quality and achieving efficiency gains from optimization of the rice supply chain, the founders of this organization intend to contribute to this. Through increased and narrow collaboration between all important stakeholders in the rice sector including the Government of Suriname, the rice sector issues can be examined and thus mitigated.
The rice sector of Suriname is under pressure for quite some time now. The steady worsening of the competitive position of Surinamese rice exporters on the traditional export markets led in the second crop of 2015 to extremely low paddy prices between SRD 28 and SRD 40 per bag of 79 kg wet paddy. This corresponds to a price of between US$ 105 and 151 per ton wet paddy. Export prices for white rice with a brokens percentage of 25% to 10% decreased to between US$ 310 and US$ 360 per ton. These developments led to a drastic drop in profitability for both producers and processors, which seriously threathens the survival of the sector.
The poor economic situation of the country at the moment restricts the ability of the Government, without internationale donor financing, to reverse this negatieve trend.
The decreasing competitiveness of the Surinamese rice products on the traditional export market led to a reduce field production and underutilization of productive farm lands and a decreasing export surplus. This also led to decreasing margins for processors and reduced efficiency of the mills, and also to a reduction in farmer income and a further increase of the debt position of paddy farmers.
One of the problems is that stakeholders in the sector on several levels (individual, organizational, governmental) have perceived conflicting interests. How do we address these potential conflicts? Furthermore, how to strengthen the “common interest” feeling. One of the major sources of stagnation is the poor coördination, communication and cooperation in de sector and between the actors in the value chains. Poor horizontal and vertical cooperation exists (farmers organizations, processors organizations, government departments, research institutes) in all segments of the chain.
One of the key challenges is the structuring and coördination of sector development by the major players (exporters, millers, farmers) with the policymakers. Public-private partnerships in water management, infrastructure, processing and logistics have not been materialized. Furthermore there is a lack of professional policy and management capacity in the Ministries and key institutes involved (MoA, MT&I, MRD, MPW, MFin, ADRON and OW-MCP) together with a weak cooperation between them.
There is also insufficient market orientation throughout the value chain and knowledge of changes in consumer preferences and market requirements on the export markets in the EU and the Caribbean. There is insufficient innovative capacity in the whole chain to absorb and adopt relevant modern methods and technology. As a result the actors cannot cope adequately with international developments in the fields of standardisation of quality, traceability systems, markt oriented research, value adding for products (for niche markets like organic, fair-trade and aromatic rice), by-products and residues (chaff and hay), leading to a low gross revenues of our rice.
These are all reasons for the initiators to conclude that a national sector wide effort is neccessary to stop this negative trend, whereby good use can be made from experiences of other major rice exporting countries.
A national rice conference will lead to practical broadly supported proposals for improvement and short and long term actions in order to, with all stakeholders and experts, reverse the tide into a booming rice sector.