Rice Plague May Cause Huge Losses

October 22, 2004

A rice mite that has attacked plantationssince April or even earlier maycause a decrease in Costa Rican rice productionof 40,000 tons and an estimatedloss of $10 million, according to theNational Rice Corporation (Conarroz).Some crops have been reduced by asmuch as 50%.“This is the most serious problem therice industry has seen in the past 10 yearsand will have a huge impact,” saidConarroz president Agustín Navarro.The expected reduction in the nationalharvest will increase the amount of ricethe country will have to import to138,000 tons, at a price higher thannationally produced rice.The price of a metric ton of nationalrice is $274. The price of imported rice isapproximately $340, including transportationcosts.The rice industry plans to ask theEconomy, Industry and Commerce Ministryfor an adjustment of the consumerprice beginning in January, Navarro said.The national supply is expected to run outat the end of November.Economy Minister Gilberto Barrantestold the daily La Nación officials have notyet contemplated any change in price andwill study the case when they have reliablestatistics about the impact of the mites.A University of Costa Rica (UCR)scientist discovered the mites in April,however the plague probably startedbefore, Navarro said.Farmers have limited the use of insecticidesspecifically for the mite problem,because they have proved relatively ineffectiveand could have serious environmentalimpacts, Navarro told The TicoTimes this week.Instead, Conarroz is focusing onchanging farmers’ cleaning and managementpractices, and working to introducea strain of rice resistant to the mites,which was developed in Cuba andDominican Republic.

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