Whatever happens, we hope that he Government of Belize will not be persuaded to destroy the 75 tons of imported rice from Guyana which it has confiscated.
The rice was imported by Indian businessman Jack Charles, in defiance of the Department of Belize’s Bureau of Standards, which has legal responsibility to regulate what imports come into the country.
A judge of the Supreme Court has ruled that Mr. Jack Charles acted illegally in allowing the cheaper rice to be brought to Belize without explicit government approval. That ruling has cleared the way for the government of Belize to confiscate the rice.
This rice, three containers of it, was first quarantined by the Belize Agriculture Health Authority, BAHA on health grounds that there may be something wrong with the quality of the rice. But now the court ruling has moved beyond that point. Even if there is nothing wrong with the rice, the government can now confiscate it.
There has been some loose talk of the government destroying the rice, but we hope they won’t. There is a world of difference between destroying confiscated marijuana, which is a prohibited drug, and destroying confiscated rice, which is a food staple.
It would be an act of infamy to destroy this rice, especially when there are so many poor people who would love to have some of it.
Government should be able to give this food away to churches and schools and organizations that feed the poor. It should be able to release this rice on a gradual basis so that its distribution does not impact too much on the market of traditional rice growers in the country.
Government should have the ability to insert this rice over a twelve-month period into the distribution stream with hardly a ripple, keeping some for the regular food hampers which it distributes to poor families.
As for Mr. Jack Charles, we believe he has learned an important lesson: that the government’s strategy for development requires both government and people to face some tough choices.
He will have to think twice before he tries something like that again.