Rice farmers get a raise but no barrier to imported competition

Producers have failed in an attempt to have restrictions placed on the importation of milled rice, but they will be getting more money.

The Asociación Nacional de Productores Arroceros de Costa Rica said Thursday that the price paid to producers will be 23,131 colons per 73.6 kilogram sack. That was a victory because the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio cut the price the government will guarantee to 20,050 colons.

But producers went to the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo and successfully argued for the higher price.

The bulk of the rice grown in Costa Rica is sold to the Corporación Arrocera Nacional, which then sells the product to commercial outlets. The message Thursday establishing the new price came from that agency, the producer’s group said.

Producers have twice asked the ministry to invoke a special World Trade Organization rule to allow additional import duties on rice. The ministry said Thursday that it would not do
so and that the concept still is under study.

World Trade rules provide for special protection for domestic producers under certain conditions. In its preliminary determination, the ministry said that only a small amount of rice is imported. In 2011 the amount was 3.78 percent of the national harvest. Not included in the discussions are imports under the Central American Free Trade Treaty and treaties among the Central American states.

The ministry also said that current imports do not represent a grave danger to the rice industry. A final decision is expected in November. However, there is another request for what is known as a special safeguard that was presented only July 27, said the ministry.

Rice grower representatives are expected to meet Tuesday with ministry officials and its Dirección de Defensa Comercial, which made the determination.

The average Costa Rican eats about 50 kilos of rice every year, according to international estimates, so changes in the price directly affects consumers.

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