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Costa Rican rice producers fight elimination of gov’t-backed price controls

June 18, 2014
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According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the per-kilogram price of rice in Costa Rica is the seventh highest in the world. The ranking was published in a Rice Market Monitor report released this week.

But on Tuesday, representatives of the National Rice Corporation (CONARROZ) went on a publicity blitz to discredit the report, calling it inaccurate.

According to the FAO report, a kilogram of rice in Costa Rica costs $1.37 and trails prices in Ghana ($ 1.51), the U.S. ($1.61), Italy ($2.11), Korea ($2.27), Angola ($3.29) and Japan ($4.74).

CONARROZ said the report ignores aspects of grain quality and attributed the information collected by FAO “to a campaign by current Economy Ministry officials aimed at changing the price structure of rice in the country.”

Eduardo Rojas, a rice farmer, called the FAO report “erroneous” and “full of lies.”

Rice is the only basic food in Costa Rica with a fixed price set by the government. But an executive decree issued on May 20, 2013 calls for price controls to end, letting the market determine the price as of March 2014. Government officials in January postponed that decree from taking effect until March 1, 2015.

Other studies by the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry (MAG) and the University of Costa Rica’s Institute of Economics Research concluded that “the current pricing system hurts consumers and benefits only a few rice producers.”

Representatives of CONARROZ on Tuesday morning met with President-elect Luis Guillermo Solís, incoming Economy Minister Welmer Ramos and incoming MAG Minister Luis Felipe Arauz. At the meeting, Solís said he opposes any decree eliminating price controls on rice.

Rice is an essential part of Ticos’ daily diet. The country consumes 224,000 tons of rice annually, or 48 kilograms per person, according to MAG.

FAO’s Rice Market Monitor report is conducted four times a year and collects consumers’ prices of rice in 55 countries. With slight fluctuations, prices of Tico rice in recent reports have ranked among the world’s top 10 most expensive.

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