The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) says to date Mahaicony Rice Mills Limited (MRL) is still to pay off farmers for paddy supplied from the first crop of 2008 and its total debt to them is in excess of $600M.
In a press release the GRDB said MRL which manages the largest rice milling operation in Guyana is the biggest defaulter and currently it is a crucial time for the rice crop as fertilizers would be applied to the crop now. The Board recalled that MRL General Manager Brandon Barton had made a commitment that all money from the said crop would have been paid by December 31. MRL has started paying for the second crop and aimed to complete this payment by this month end. However, the GRDB said it received a document which stated that the final date for payment is February 4 but based on its investigations “this may not be possible as their records are showing that they (owe) in excess of ($600M)”.
The release said too MRL requested an increase on their overdraft at the bank which agriculture minister Robert Persaud had supported and he had asked for a schedule of payment to farmers from that company.
The GRDB said the minister’s request was made on January 6 and that it had been granted to allow MRL to pay farmers. In addition to the request the GRDB said Barton was reminded of the arrangement via numerous telephone calls but there has been no response.
Meanwhile Saj Rice Inc, the other major defaulter is paying farmers weekly with a schedule of completing payment by mid-February. Small operators like D Joree, Indar Singh, Alesie, O Rampersaud, Chiranjualall and Shiraz Ali also owe small amounts and have informed the Board that farmers will be paid by mid-February.
The GRDB said the minister has charged it to take all steps to ensure that farmers are paid in a timely manner. It also reminds millers that the conditions of their licence to manufacture rice include timely payment to farmers.