MRL clears over 90% of paddy debt to farmers

The Mahaicony Rice Limited (MRL) has paid more than 90% of the monies it owed to farmers for paddy supplied since the first crop last year.

General Secretary of the Guyana Rice Producers’ Association (GRPA) Dharamkumar Seeraj told Stabroek News last week that the paying process started about two weeks ago. MRL, according to him, has paid more than 300 farmers approximately $384 million.

Based on GRPA figures, Seeraj said, MRL originally owed farmers more than $400 million. However, the GRPA figures differ from those compiled by MRL and reconciliation processes are currently ongoing to sort the matter out so that the remaining percentage of the debt can be settled.

The differences, he explained, arise more often in cases where the farmer would have taken fertiliser from MRL. The cost of the fertiliser will have be deducted from the amount the company owes the farmer for paddy to determine the amount payable to that farmer.

Farmers in regions Two, Four, Five and Six have received payments from MRL during the last two weeks, Seeraj said. Region Three farmers, he noted, did not supply paddy to the company during the Spring Crop of 2010. “Right now we are just concentrating on paying the rest of farmers who are owed and verifying the amounts which are payable to them,” Seeraj said.

Late last year, the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), on instructions from the Ministry of Agriculture, had made a move to audit MRL. However, the company had refused to hand over its documents. When questioned about whether the audit process would still take place, Seeraj said that the aim was to determine “just how much money MRL owes the farmers.” The current payment process, he said, is very much a part of the auditing procedure.

Seeraj, responding to further questions, said that no measures have been taken to guard against another lengthy lapse by MRL to pay farmers. He explained that this is the first instance that MRL has taken such a long period of time to pay farmers.

In the past, MRL delivered payments a few weeks late but has never been “directly delinquent,” Seeraj said. Under current arrangements, he further noted, the GRPA and the GRDB will be “paying closer attention” to MRL’s operations.

As long as MRL pays farmers then they should be allowed to continue operating here, he stated. He further noted that MRL is the largest milling establishment locally and has been in operation for many years.

MRL has several operation bases in regions Two, Four, Five and Six. Minimal operations have already re-started at some of these locations, Seeraj said.

Proprietor of MRL Jai Beni recently confirmed that the company would be starting operations locally following a massive winding down process at the end of last year into the early part of this year.

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