MRL’s owners asked to meet government
Owners of the embattled Mahaicony Rice Limited (MRL), which is facing a number of court actions for outstanding payments to farmers, have been requested to meet with government.
With farmers owed an estimated $250M, authorities say that they will be asking the rice company, which is headquartered in Holland, to route proceeds of rice sales to the regulators, the Guyana Rice Development Board, as one of the immediate measures to ease the fallouts.
Yesterday, Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud, whose portfolios cover rice, confirmed that the principals of MRL have been “invited” to visit Guyana and discuss “candidly’ some of the crucial issues relating to the company and its outstanding payments.
MRL buys over 40% of the paddy produced in Guyana and has investments to the tune of US$80M.
There has been worry that farmers would have been left holding a substantial quantity of rice with MRL already easing on its buying.
While government has opened up the lucrative US$38M Venezuelan rice market to farmers who have to meet health and other phyto-sanitary requirements, there is still a significant quantity of rice that would be left and buyers would have to be found.
According to Persaud yesterday, during the upcoming meeting with MRL principals, the company will be asked to remit payments it receives for the overseas sales to GRDB and these would be used to cover payments to farmers.
Rice officials have said that the company was hard hit by the global financial crisis and this affected its cash flow.
MRL has been facing increasing flak over the past months with scores of farmers claiming that they are owed.
Recently, the Ministry of Agriculture announced that an audit team had been sent in to verify what exactly is owed to farmers.
Over the weekend, Parliamentarian and attorney-at-law Anil Nandlall, who is representing a number of farmers suing MRL, said that the behaviour of the company is atrocious with delaying, legal tactics being used to stymie the court cases.
Four persons, including prominent Essequibo businessman, Arnold Sankar, have sued the miller for more than $200M in outstanding monies.
In the case of Sankar, the businessman had filed an injunction stopping an MRL shipment of rice from leaving unless a bank guarantee was lodged to the tune of $120M. This was done and MRL was mandated to pay Sankar within a certain time. However, recently, following submissions from MRL, a court released $40M to Sankar.
In the case of Mohammed Shariff, an overseas-based rice farmer, he is still owed $69M although a court deadline passed recently.
Recently, another amendment was made to the law that will force millers to lodge 10% cash value of their last crop value before milling licences are issued.