By Ingrid Fernandez, Staff Reporter
Several irregularities with the quality and pricing of locally produced rice has prompted the Belize Progressive Party (BPP) to call on the government for more regular and stringent monitoring of the product.
The issue of Jack Charles’ failed attempt to import rice into Belize caused a surge of research on locally-produced rice and imported rice from Guyana.
In a press release from the BPP this week, the party suggests that what is being served on Belizean’s tables might very well be harmful to them.
The BPP expresses concerns that locally-produced rice contains a high content of arsenic, which is one of the worlds most toxic elements and causes health hazards, such as heart disease and certain forms of cancers like, skin, bladder and lung cancer.
The BPP calls on the government to monitor the arsenic content in locally-produced rice, especially because heart disease is the second highest cause of death among Belizeans.
Guyanese rice, however, might not be the best import option, states the BPP as they note that some Guyanese rice exports have been rejected by countries in South America.
The BPP is asking the government to implement better testing procedures with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
When it comes to pricing, which was a reason why the Belize Agriculture Health Authority (BAHA) rejected Charles’ intentions to import rice, the party says the current pricing is not as closely monitored and stringently controlled as it appears to be.
The party states that out of the five grades of rice produced in Belize, only one is price-controlled. Grade C, states the BPP, is a mixture of 30 percent broken kernels and 70 percent whole, and is the only kind that is price-controlled and sells at 76 cents per pound. This, it says, party states that is one of the least purchased rice.
The four other types are left to the producer to set his price and not even the best type of rice, Premium Grade, which sells the most, is price-controlled.
Another concern which BPP has brought to the fore is the laxity in quality control and pricing when it comes to rice produce. It asks the government for consistent and close monitoring of the produce, since, the party states, “Belizeans are known to consume millions of pounds of rice per year.”