The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) is currently working with Panamanian officials to ensure that the outstanding payments owed to Guyanese millers are made.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Agriculture on Thursday said the government is not responsible for farmers being owed by millers for rice that was shipped to Panama.
It explained that in light of recent reports circulating in the media as it relates to some millers being owed for rice supplied to Panama, GRDB General Manager Nizam Hassan has indicated that the Board is not in possession of the funds and is currently working with officials in Panama to ensure that the outstanding balance will be made available for payment “at the earliest possible time.”
It further quoted Hassan as saying that the millers are aware that when they supply the Panamanian market, they will receive payments from GRDB whenever they are received from the country.
The statement said Hassan explained that because the Panamanian market is a government market that pays a higher price than other markets, payments are often delayed due to government processes.
Currently, millers are owed for two contracted supplies– the last contract for 2017 and the first contract for 2018.
The statement said that many of the small millers who supplied rice under those two contracts were recently paid by the rice board to the tune of US$1,270,901 from its own resources. It was further noted that the board recently received a further US$550,000 from Panama that is currently being used to pay the millers.
The statement added that Agriculture Minister Noel Holder noted that the rice industry is “doing well” and implored the millers to desist from using the farmers as a “bank.”
“Generally, transactions are done through an established letter of credit. The Panamanian market offers a 30% increase in price for rice but given the existing arrangement and the fact that it is not an irrevocable letter of the credit agreement, the millers evidently want to enjoy both sides of the coin. They want both the increased prices as well as the terms outlined in the line of credit agreement,” the statement further said, while pointing out that millers have the option of paying farmers from funds they have or can arrange their payments through established banking agreements, as the ministry has been urging them to do since the law stipulates that farmers are to be paid two weeks after paddy is supplied to them.
The statement also reported Hassan as saying that shipments to the Mexican market are done in a private capacity, henceforth, the GRDB is not handling any monies for rice supplies to that market.
Earlier in the year, the Rice Producers Association (RPA) had raised the issue about millers and exporters being owned money by the board, which Hassan had denied.
A statement by the Association had claimed that they were made privy to information that the payments of over $2 billion was due to the millers/exporters since July last year.
Hassan had told Stabroek News shortly after that the claims by the RPA were not true and that the millers were owed by the buyers in Panama.