The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) has received an additional US$4.5 million from Panamanian authorities to make payments owed to local rice millers, General Manager Nizam Hassan has said.
Earlier in the year, the Rice Producers Association (RPA) had voiced its concern 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 amounting to over $2 billion were due to the millers/ exporters since July of last year.
Hassan told Stabroek News shortly afterward that the claims by the RPA were not true and that the millers were owed by the buyers in Panama.
Subsequently, a statement issued by the Ministry of Agriculture had explained that the GRDB was working with the Panamanian officials to secure the outstanding balance “at the earliest possible time.”
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.
Speaking to Stabroek News last week, Hassan explained that all of the small millers have been paid and monies are only owed to the larger companies and the GRDB has since received an additional US$4.5 million, taking the total to US$6.4 million out of a US$7.5 million contract.
Hassan explained that through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was signed a few years ago, the Panamanian government agreed to purchase rice from Guyana through its Institute of Agriculture Marketing (IMA).
“They are purchasing rice from Guyana through the GRDB, because it’s government to government, and what the GRDB does is pass their contract quantities to the Guyana Rice Exporters and Millers Association (GREMA). They do the allocation based on the capacity of the millers and what they purchase. GREMA does an allocation and submits it to the GRDB and the GRDB provides the logistics coordination for shipping with the shipping lines that take the containers to Panama,” Hassan explained.
He said that contracts are signed between the Panamanian Government and the GRDB and other contracts are signed between the GRDB and the Millers.
“The GRDB is a facilitator since they are already tasked with monitoring rice exports’ quality. Rice is delivered and payments come from the Panamanian government to the GRDB and the GRDB prepares the payments to the millers,” he said.
Hassan also noted that a group of representatives from Panama recently met with the millers and other stakeholders to discuss their business relationship. “The Panamanians came and it was about maintaining our business relationships and to discuss matters relating to contracts we have been given, inclusive of payments. We discussed moving forward with additional contracts and they had the opportunity to visit and observe the packaging operations and mills and to meet with the representatives of the millers and to share concerns. Like in any business, things will pop up here and there and that needed to be discussed,” Hassan explained.
He said that meeting was “excellent” and held very cordially and all the parties, including the GRDB and representatives from GREMA and the IMA, had very good discussions. Issues affecting the respective parties were raised and solutions were discussed, he noted.