Rice protected for another year from forces of free market

The government has waffled again on freeing the price of rice.

The minister de Agricultura y Ganadería and the minister of Economía, Industria y Comercio announced Friday that they had delayed the decree that would cause rice to be subject to market conditions.

The rice producers had promised protests in several parts of the country today.

The original decree would have ended price controls on the food staple March 1. The government already agreed to delay this for six months. Now the proposed date is March 1, 2015.

Mayi Antillón Guerrero, the economics minister, has shown a strong free market tendency during her tenure. Officials note that higher prices for the growers means higher prices for consumer.

Rice growers and their Corporación Arrocera Nacional are not happy with the removal of price controls because Costa Rican rice has been more expensive than foreign imports.

The original decree noted that the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio sought help from the Instituto de Investigaciones en Ciencias Económicas at the Universidad de Costa Rica. The institute report said that consumers have paid higher prices due to the government support and that there is no economic or social argument to justify the current system.

In addition, the report said, the price control has not resulted in an increase in productivity by rice farmers because the level of cultivation has declined over the last 20 years.

Rice growers said that the removal of the price controls would jeopardize the basic food supply of Costa Ricans.

Johnny Araya, the presidential candidate for the Partido Liberación Nacional, has said that Ms. Antillón, Gloria Abrahams, minister of Agricultura y Gandería, and Anabel González, the minister of Comercio Exterior, would have no role in his government.

Rice growers also were peeved at imports into the southern zone. They sought trade restrictions.  However, President Laura Chinchilla was reported to have denied this request, which would come up against various trade treaties.

The growers also are seeking a reduction in the premium for crop insurance for policies issued by the Instituto Nacional de Seguros. Government officials said they would come up with a revised proposal this week.

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