Rice producers’ body calls on GRDB to make payments owed for Panama exports

The Guyana Rice Producers Association (RPA) has called on the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) to make payments to millers and exporters, which it says are owed an estimated $2 billion for exports to Panama.

A release from the RPA on Monday called on the GRDB to urgently make a partial or full payment, though GRDB head Nizam Hassan said the figure cited by the association is inaccurate.

The RPA statement said that the Association was made privy to information that the payments amounting to approximately $2 billion is due to the millers/exporters since July, 2017.

It said millers supplied the rice to the GRDB, the contracted party with Panama, over the life of two contracts and they are still awaiting payments. “We are of the strong view that the GRDB is in a sound financial position, based on the amount of levies collected from exports over the years, to pay these millers either fully or at least a substantial amount of the total due,” the statement added.

The RPA further said that the rice sector is being affected severely by the “huge amount” that is due and many farmers are still to be fully paid. It also stated that some millers are facing bankruptcy while others are unable to make investments for much needed upgrades to their facilities, which will affect efficiency and profitability.

“Payments to suppliers for rice will better serve the industry than the squandering of the GRDB money over ill thought [out] projects that are absolute failures. The failure of the GRDB, a government agency to pay the millers is another betrayal of another campaign promise by the coalition government of the APNU/AFC,” the statement added.

However, when contacted, Hassan told Stabroek News that the claims by the RPA are not true. “The millers are owed but owed by buyers in Panama. The money just passes through the GRDB,” he said, while indicating that it is currently preparing a schedule for payments.

Hassan also noted that the total figure that was cited by the RPA is incorrect. He said the GRDB would issue a more in depth statement on the issue but up to press time on Monday, no statement had been received.

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