LIBERIA, Costa Rica — Costa Rican rice farmers are struggling to sell their crops due to a lack of demand for nationally produced rice within the country.
An excess supply of rice, government regulated market prices and imported foreign rice have all had a crippling effect on local farmers.
Erick Camacho, the production chief at one of the rice processing plants, fears some farmers won’t be able to keep their business.
“In five years there will only be five companies left and only two thirds of the farmers will make it.” Camacho said through a translator.
Arroz Sabanero has a cooperative with 23 rice farmers, all of whom have a specific quota to fill. When quotas are met, there is no room for other farmers.
Camacho deals with rice farmers personally. This year the farmers within the cooperative filled every silo Arroz Sabanero had, plus seven extra silos that Camacho rented for additional storage. Without any more room, Camacho declined the option of purchasing rice from other farmers.
Another problem is that the Corporacion Arrocera Nacional controls the price on rice in Costa Rica. This control is meant to benefit the people, but currently that price is higher than the price of imported rice.
Costa Rica imports 45,000 tons of rice every year from the United States, which is cheaper and lower quality than the Costa Rican rice. The people of Costa Rica are purchasing imported American rice at the market instead of their national brands.
Costa Rican rice farmers are hurting, and unfortunately the government isn’t doing much to help, according to Camacho. Bound by their agreement with the United States, Costa Rica continues to import rice and they also refuse to drop their price control.
“Politics are for the majority and if they hurt the minority then so be it,” says Camacho, referencing the plight of the rice farmers.
The current situation seems to agree with Camacho. If things don’t change, rice farmers are in trouble.
— David Dishman