GEORGETOWN, GuyanaGuyana produced more than half a million tonnes of paddy in the first crop for this year with exports of the commodity totalling more than US$92 million, according to figures released by the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) on Wednesday.

The GRDB said that 518,667 metric tonnes of paddy was produced during the first crop, a 26 percent increase over the same period last year

“So, you see the first crop figures have been better despite all that have occurred in the industry. Farmers are resilient. Additionally, from paddy supplied to millers across the rice-growing regions, a total of 337, 133 metric tonnes of rice was produced. This is a 26 percent increase over last year’s first crop figures,” GRDB acting general manager, Allison Peters.

However, while there have been increases in production, the rice board has been grappling with a decrease in exports of rice and paddy for the first four months of the year, due to the fact that exports to the Panama market for the first crop not materialising.

For the first crop 2017, exports amounted to 239,442 metric tonnes, some 60,000 tonnes less that for the same period last year. Foreign exchange earnings from the export of rice and paddy amounted to US$92.02 million.

Peters noted that while the exports were significantly less than for the corresponding period last year the comparative value of the exports were not much different.

“We did notice that the prices in 2017 first quarter were higher than those we got in 2017; specifically for the packaged rice; a lot of packaged rice were exported for the first quarter, a large portion of this was exported to Venezuela,” Peters said, adding “only last month we had over 4000 tonnes of white rice exported to Venezuela by private exporters”.

The GRDB said that once the international prices continue to hold or increase, Guyana’s earnings from the exports of rice and paddy for the second crop can very well make up for the shortfall realised in the first crop.

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, has dismissed suggestions that his country and others in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), have been giving blind support to the Nicolás Maduro-led administration in Venezuela.

During an interview on Radio Jamaica’s Beyond the Headlines programme this evening, Browne made it clear that his country is ready to draw the line when it comes to its support of President Maduro.

“At the end of the day, the [Presidential] Elections are due in 2018, and if Maduro fails to have Presidential Elections, we certainly will draw the line,” Browne told radio listeners.

“At the end of the day, you have to respect the fact, no matter what you think of Maduro, he is the elected President of Venezuela. If Maduro decides to stay on beyond his term we will draw the line. Our support is not blind support. We are standing on principle.”

The Antigua and Barbuda leader acknowledged that the situation in Venezuela is becoming more and more tenuous with each passing day and that it’s “of serious concern” to his Government and the people of Antigua and Barbuda.

“I am saying this in the interest of the security of my country because we can’t deal with a flood of refugees coming into Antigua and Barbuda. We can’t deal with a situation where you have terrorism cells in Venezuela because at the end of the day we don’t have the kinds of mechanisms to deal with terrorism,” Browne said.

He made this point while noting that CARICOM has been very careful to ensure that the language of any declaration on Venezuela does not give any opening for any clandestine intervention.

“We know that in other parts of the world, in other regions, there have been interventions that have gone very bad and those countries have actually remained unstable up to today. So, the whole idea is to ensure that there is no such opening because even if there is any external intervention in the affairs of Venezuela, as far as we are concerned, more than likely, it will worsen the situation there,” Browne said.

“First of all, you do not have any single opposition party in Venezuela that commands majority support.

GREAT BAY, St. Maarten – The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season kicked off on June 1st, and two named storm systems formed this week, namely Bret and Cindy.

This is a stark reminder that residents and business owners should be prepared for the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season which according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center, will be a busy season – above-normal.

Tropical Storm Cindy is currently in the Gulf of Mexico off the U.S. northern gulf coast and forecasted to make landfall on Thursday.

LONDON – The United Nations Ocean Conference underlined the need for an integrated approach to the blue economy, one which supports jobs and livelihoods while conserving the environment. A new Blue Charter of principles for sustainable ocean development may be the answer, writes Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland

Ours is a blue planet. The ocean, which covers more than two thirds of the Earth’s surface, is home to an incredible variety of species. It is a source of sustenance, prosperity and sheer wonder for humankind.

Almost half a century ago, on 24 December 1968 aboard Apollo 8, astronaut Bill Anders took a photograph of the Earth rising above the surface of the Moon. ‘Earthrise’ was the name given to this picture which captured the world’s imagination.

The photograph remains one of the most profound images ever created, offering us a reminder of the planet’s fragile existence: a jewel among a galaxy of stars and the only place in the universe known to host life. But for a predominantly blue world, ‘Earthrise’ seems misnamed. I prefer to call it ‘Oceanrise’.

For millennia the ocean has blessed humanity with bountiful resources. In many coastal communities, small-scale fishing still provides families with their main source of food and income, while millions more rely on sectors including offshore energy, coastal tourism and maritime transport.

However climate change, overexploitation, pollution and inequity in the sharing of marine resources mean there are real risks to the future of those who depend on the ocean. Global fish stocks are under severe pressure with up to 90 percent either fished to full capacity or depleted through overfishing, while renewable offshore energy resources as well as deep-sea minerals remain untapped.

At the same time, despite accounting for a substantial proportion of the ocean workforce, the contribution of groups such as women and young people is often ignored in commercial decisions and public policy-making. This has an impact on their financial independence, social status and livelihoods.

All of these concerns underline why last week’s United Nations Ocean Conference, the first of its kind, was so critically important. Co-chaired by the governments of Fiji and Sweden, the high-level summit at the UN General Assembly in New York was held to help countries chart a course to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 14 to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”.

The conference resulted in a call for action which aims to protect the oceans while also respecting the right of countries to sustainably develop their blue economy. At the conclusion, over 1300 voluntary commitments had been tabled, as governments and private and civil society partners outlined steps they are taking to make good on the vision of SDG 14.

It was especially encouraging to see the commitments lodged by Commonwealth member countries. The world is now on track to protect over 10 percent of marine areas by 2020. Countries are seeking to share innovative technologies, to give consumers greater choice in sourcing sustainable fish, to find a common approach to dealing with harmful subsidies, to eliminate harmful plastics and reduce sewage and pollution.

HAMILTON, Bermuda – One of Bermuda’s leading former footballers was jailed for 11 years on Tuesday for a raft of historic sex offences against three young boys.

Wendell Baxter — commonly known by his nickname Woolly — received his sentence in the Supreme Court after earlier admitting a string of indecent assaults on his victims back in the 1970s and 1980s.

Baxter led North Village to the triple crown of league, Friendship Trophy and FA Cup when the club dominated local football in the late 1970s and went on to become a popular and respected coach.

But his dark secret away from the football field caught up with him earlier this year.

In March, Baxter, 58, pleaded guilty to a total of 18 separate charges of molesting three young boys.

The first seven counts on the indictment, which included indecent assault, committing indecent acts and gross indecency, related to the first young victim and took place between 1973 and 1983.

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