Millers accuse GRDB of “runaround” over owed $2B in rice payments

first_img…entity mum on concerns as ripple effects reach farmersBy Shemuel FanfairThe Guyana Rice Development Board’s (GRDB) move to dishonour its financial obligations to pay rice millers is having far-reaching effects across the rice industry, as farmers continue to decry that the non-payment for their produce is affecting their sustenance in the vital agricultural sector.Following the expressed dissatisfaction of farmers with respect to their non-payment from millers, Guyana Times reached out to several millers, who confirmed that the Agriculture Ministry’s sub-agency, GRDB, owes them in excess of $2 billion dating back to 2017.Agriculture Minister Noel HolderThe Rice Producers Association in recent days claimed that the GRDB failed to execute payments since August 2017 despite having the requisite resources. This revelation followed reports this newspaper carried which quoted farmers in the Essequibo island of Wakenaam as saying that millers have not paid them since March 2018 for the previous crop.Information recently disclosed to this publication stated that millers, who are facing financial challenges of their own, have been in constant dialogue with the GRDB which, according to them, has not responding with positive word on when they would be paid.GRDB General Manager Nizam Hassan“GRDB owe we from since last year. How can we be able to pay the farmers? We couldn’t bear the credit anymore, we asked GRBD to help us,” a miller who declined to be identified stated.Guyana Times understands that the rice was shipped from last year under a deal with Panama but to date, the GRDB is said to be giving millers the royal “runaround” for payments.It was disclosed that there was a meeting with several millers and senior operatives with GRDB some two weeks ago where the entity committed that it will pay millers within “next week”.According to what was observed, the “next week” comment has been running for a few weeks and the millers continue to be indebted to farmers, with some individual rice producers owing hundreds of millions of dollars to farmers. At that meeting, a source said, millers told GRDB how the non-payment was hurting the industry and that they urgently needed the money that they were owed.Fearing to go public with their grievances, millers are accusing the GRDB of having received some of the payments but not giving the funds over so that they could clear their debts. Just recently, a ship heading to Mexico docked at local shores, but it is unclear when millers would obtain GRDB payments.“It’s not the miller’s fault, GRDB holding up the money. In previous times, if GRDB owe us, they would pay us but they are saying that the Minister did not give the okay to pay… they [told] me next week [on] Monday morning,” a miller related.“GRBD owes millers over $2 billion… the Government used to pay the millers and wait on the Panama money to come in,” another miller who owes farmers in excess of $300 million explained.They collectively decried the extensive ripple effects that the ongoing situation is having on all stakeholders.“We got to give back the farmers advance on fuel, fertiliser, cash advance, plus we got to bring down we overdraft at the bank. It got ripple effect, they (GRDB) owe all the millers,” the long-standing miller stressed.When Guyana Times contacted GRDB General Manager Nizam Hassan on Saturday for a clarification on these matters, he disconnected the call when he heard it was someone from this newspaper. Subsequent calls to his number went unanswered.Additionally, sources told this newspaper that Hassan highlighted to millers that he had to check with Agriculture Minister Noel Holder before he could respond to their concerns over payment. This publication also called Minister Noel Holder for a comment on the issue, but this number went directly to voicemail. In late May, Wakenaam farmers had informed this publication that their miller, Wazir Hussein had not paid them for paddy he had purchased since March, although converted same into rice. The farmers disclosed that having to go for months without payment put them under grave financial strain, and they are now beginning to default on loan repayments, which is affecting their livelihood and sustenance. In April, Essequibo rice miller Arnold Sankar won a $99 million lawsuit against the GRDB for its failure to pay for paddy it asked him to supply. In its award, the court granted to Sankar the full sum of $99,670,273, which he lost as a result of the Rice Board’s breach of the paddy-supply deal. In 2017, Guyana secured a new rice deal with Mexico under a $3.8 billion contract that created a market for over 60,000 tonnes of paddy. The first batch was shipped in June of 2017.last_img

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