QCOSTARICA – The president of Costa Rica, Rodrigo Chaves, acknowledged that the results of the “Rice Route” (Ruta del Arroz) have not been as expected, since consumer prices have not dropped.
The statement was made at the press conference last Wednesday, December 21, after the weekly meeting of his cabinet and when answering the question from the journalist Betania Artavia de Heredia Hoy.
CONARROZ, a non-state public entity that protects and promotes national rice activity, always warned the government that the costs associated with the value chain and applied in the models that it repealed four months ago with its “Rice Route” were technically correct and applied and for that reason the regulated prices were prices fair and obeyed the reality of the Costa Rican market.
“Despite all the warnings and the fact that the MEIC (Ministry of Commerce) was always the one that applied price regulation, a Rice Route was implemented that the only thing it promoted is the dismantling of rice producers who have seen an enormous problem in the reduction of the value of their harvests,” said Fernando Araya, executive director of Conarroz.
This rice policy has been so disastrous for the farmer, that in just four months the planting area was reduced by more than 50%, going from 35,317 hectares in the 2021-2022 period to 17,937 hectares in the 2022-2023 period.
“The most unfair of all is that the sacrifice of the producers has been in vain, since the price to the consumer has not gone down and will not go down because the price now depends on the margins defined by the intermediaries, or could it be that the MEIC will rectify and intervene in prices as it should? Where are the technical studies that supported the government to make these regulatory changes promising non-existent benefits, and that have had serious consequences for producers and rural areas?” added Araya.
“In recent months we have seen how the cost of bus and taxi fares has increased, as well as the cost of fuel that is still high and the president orders consumers to ‘do their part’ to look for the ‘low prices’, when it is known that these prices do not differ significantly between one trade and another, but worst of all; the consumer stopped buying rice at the same regulated and fair price, which was offered in all shops in the country, and now they are asked to shop around and spend much more money on transport than on savings due to the little variation of the price of rice”, said Andrés Vásquez, representative of the producers.
With the decrees published since August by the government of Rodrigo Chaves, the only ones who have benefited are the importers of the grain, since the productive ecosystem of this crop in the country is being dismantled, and the price to the consumer will not drop, which denotes that the “Rice Route” was a totally improvised proposal lacking technical studies and adequate impact.
“With the president’s statements it is clear to us that the Rice Route was something more from the president’s gut than from his head, and his arrogance will not allow him to admit the serious mistake he made against the Costa Rican rice producer, since, he continues to affirm that despite everything ‘he is very happy’ and does not regret it in the slightest’ with the policy,” Luis Corea, a producer from Guanacaste, told Revista Summa.
To point out the government’s plans for the sector, an article in the Semanario Universidad last month explains that President Rodrigo Chaves conditioned the proposal for subsidies to micro, small and medium rice producers to the closure of the Conarroz, however, producers are reluctant to lose their representation.
The newspaper reported that Chaves held a meeting on Thursday, November 17, for more than three hours with a representation of rice producers, mainly from the Chorotega region, calling for the closure of Conarroz and warning that the intention is that survival is for those who can compete.