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Caribbean Rice Producers to Go to Court
Eleven of the 15 members of the Caribbean Community buy rice from Asia, South America and the United States without levying the mandatory 25 percent import tax, said Beni Sankar, chairman of the Caribbean Rice Association.

"That is killing the industry, and there is no recourse. We are going to take it to the Caribbean Court of Justice when it is properly set up and put it to the test," he said after meeting with Caribbean trade ministers.

The Caribbean Court of Justice was inaugurated in Trinidad on April 16. It will serve as the highest judicial body for much of the region, a step toward shedding their 170-year-old dependence on Britain's Privy Council that many have resented as a vestige of colonialism.

At least 30,000-50,000 metric tons (33,000-55,000 short tons) of rice are imported annually. It competes with rice produced in Guyana and neighboring Suriname, which together could supply the region's annual demand of some 450,000 metric tons (495,000 short tons), Sankar said.

The industry is losing US$30 million (euro23.4 million) annually, he said.

"The problem is that the imported rice is heavily subsidized, and we can't compete," he said, expressing fears the European Union may withdraw a euro24 million (US$30.7 million) grant to improve the industry's competitiveness.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines bought nearly 86 percent of its rice from the United States, and Barbados purchased some 87 percent from Canada. Jamaica and Trinidad also imported substantial amounts, he said.

The case against rice importers may be the first on the Caribbean Court of Justice's agenda, when it begins to operate later this year.

In addition to hearing civil and criminal appeals arising out of national courts, the Caribbean Court of Justice will settle trade disputes stemming from the Caribbean single-market economy, which the region's leaders hope to launch this year.

Twelve Caribbean states, mostly former British colonies, are taking steps to adopt the court, though some will only turn to it in limited cases.

Only Guyana and Barbados have completed legislation needed to adopt is as their final civil and criminal appellate court. Jamaica and Trinidad are mired in political battles over the court, while other countries are facing administrative difficulties.
MGR Archive 15.5.2005
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Russia Rapan $ 700
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EU Prices Baldo €660
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