Audit ordered on MRL’s records
- rice production set to better 2009
Authorities have ordered an audit of the books of Mahaicony Rice Limited (MRL) to determine how much is actually owed to farmers.
This was disclosed Thursday by rice officials who also said that the Venezuela rice deal was closed earlier this week, but talks are ongoing with the administration over extended delays to moor ships there, racking up millions of dollars in demurrage fees.
During a press conference at the Ministry of Agriculture, Minister Robert Persaud disclosed that auditors working along with the Guyana Rice Development Board will be performing an audit of MRL records to determine exactly how much the embattled company owes farmers.
While the company has been claiming one thing, farmers are saying otherwise. Recently the company has been under fire for not paying farmers on time and while this is now trickling in, it is still being considered insufficient.
Already, four farmers have sued MRL for over $200M, claiming they supplied paddy in the last crop but have not been fully paid.
On Thursday, flanked by GRDB General Manager, Jagnarine Singh, and General Secretary of the Guyana Rice Producers Association (RPA), Dharamkumar Seeraj, the Minister pointed out that new legislation is designed to target delinquent millers and not those who have been toeing the line.
Farmers have been claiming that they are owed in excess of $300M by MRL.
Regarding the Venezuela rice deal, the officials are convinced that deal is an excellent one for Guyana with the prices for white rice being offered almost 75% above current market price and paddy hovering around 30% more.
The first shipment of this new contract is expected to leave Guyana around October.
A previous contract brokered last year between President Bharrat Jagdeo and Venezuela for 40,000 metric tonnes of paddy and 10,000 tonnes of white rice is almost completed ,with just around 4,000 tonnes rice left.
According to Seeraj, the Venezuela deal is significant since almost 30% of the rice for the season will be going to this new market – an equivalent of 1.2 – 1.5 million bags of paddy.
There is significant growth in the industry with the CARICOM territories and other regional markets being targeted.
Although the last crop was heavily affected by the dry El Nino weather conditions, harvesting figures showed that it was above what was expected and indications are that this year will surpass last year’s high.
Already, in the first six months of this year, an estimated 22% of the rice produced has been exported, with prices improving by 15%, Persaud disclosed.
Meanwhile, the Minister said that while GRDB has been playing a facilitator role, it has adjusted itself now to actually creating new markets
for the industry.
The officials also expressed concerns with the shipments to the Venezuelan market and disclosed that while it only takes a ship a little more than two days to get to that neighbouring country’s port, the congestion there is proving a major headache. One ship with rice that had left on August 13 was only recently able to dock.
It is estimated that up to US$1M may have been paid because of these delays, Persaud said.
Already, talks have started to iron out this problem, a challenge facing the industry.
On Thursday, the officials also expressed concerns over prolonged rainfall which is affecting the repairs of dams and access roads to rice cultivation areas.