Rice farmers seeking to reduce importation of foreign grain

The national rice organization is seeking legal barriers to decrease the importation of milled rice. The organization, the Corporación Arrocera Nacional, said that such actions were legal under World Trade Organization rules to protect local agriculture.

The organization said that much of the rice is coming from South America.

The rice growers in Costa Rica are subsidized by prices paid for the products, and foreign rice is competitive in the marketplace.

Rice farmers unhappy with government efforts to store and purchase rice staged a blockade Monday on the Interamericana Norte and halted traffic for hours. That was in Limonal de Abangares.

The farmers fear that no all of their rice will be purchased. Some of the crop is in storage without firm deals with private wholesalers.
The rice growers have sought for months an increase in custom duty on foreign rice and a reduction in the tonnage of rice that can be imported from the United States under the Free Trade Treaty. Rice farmers were strongly opposed to the treaty.

The rice corporation also is seeking to obtain ownership of processing plants in Liberia, Térraba and La Rita de Guápiles.

The plants are operated now by the Consejo Nacional de Producción and there have been problems last years with lack of space for the rice harvest.

After harvesting rice, like many grains, must be dried artificially so that the moisture in the grains is reduced to prevent spoiling.

The central government signed an agreement Monday that would give the plants to the rice corporation by the end of April, the rice farmers noted at a general assembly this week.

The corporation also is making an investment in storage facilities.

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