‘Suspension gravely affected operation’ – Rice Mill
Mahaicony Rice Limited should stop playing the ‘blame game’ and pay rice farmers monies owed to them. So said the General Manager of the Guyana Rice Development Board, Jagnarine Singh, yesterday.
Singh was at the time responding to claims by the company that the suspension of its license by Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud and GRDB, some months ago, has affected it gravely.
During an interview with Kaieteur News yesterday, General Manager of the MRL, Brandon Barton, said that, since the suspension of the company’s export licenses some months ago, only two shipments of rice were sent abroad.
He told this newspaper that the company is now attempting to ship rice that was scheduled to be exported some months ago.
Addressing the recent incident, where farmers were issued with invalid cheques, Barton said that the company issues cheques to farmers on the condition that they confirmed with the entity when they will be going to the bank to encash them.
The General Manager said that, had the farmers verified with the company last week before going to the bank, then the ‘bounced’ cheques’ scenario would not have occurred. Barton said that the rice company is committed to paying the farmers.
He said that the farmers have confidence in the company, since they continue to take their paddy to MRL.
While Barton expressed his confidence in the farmers, the GRDB General Manager is requesting that the rice company make public the date when it will pay farmers for paddy it bought during the first harvesting season in April.
Singh told Kaieteur News yesterday that the invalid cheques were issued after the license suspension was lifted.
“They are just finding excuses. They are creating the biggest problems in the industry, and they do not realise the negative consequences they will cause for the industry,” Singh said yesterday.
Once farmers are not paid, they would not have the resources to cultivate the full amount of acreages and, as such, cause difficulties within the industry.
“The non-payment to farmers has nothing to do with the suspension…the company is seeking to blame someone else for its problems.”
Issuing dishonoured cheques is a criminal offence, Singh said, and as such the police should have locked up the person who signed the cheques. But even as GRDB seeks to have farmers paid for paddy supplied to the mill during the first crop, the same farmers are taking their produce from the second crop to the very factory.
Last Friday, 18 farmers were turned away by commercial banks in Berbice after they were issued with ‘bounced’ cheques from MRL.
The farmers went to a Rose Hall, Corentyne bank and were told that only one payment each would be made to them, although they had several cheques.
The total value of the cheques that were not honoured was $26,328,186.
One farmer had in his possession 29 cheques which could not be encashed.
These cheques represent payments for rice purchased by the company during the first crop, which was harvested in April and June.
The Ministry of Agriculture has since issued a statement which states that attempts by the GRDB to enforce the laws and regulations of the rice industry to protect the farmers are met with frivolous court challenges.
In what can be seen as a pre-emptive move by MRL and an effort to further frustrate any action by the relevant agency to ensure farmers are paid on time, the GRDB was recently served with a notice of legal action by MRL, claiming loss of income in the earlier case, the release stated.
The GRDB has a mandate to ensure that all players in the sector confirm with the legislation.
The legislation states that GRDB was established and cannot, at any time, knowingly turn a blind eye to activities that do not conform with the law. MRL is the largest single operator in the industry.
But, according to the GRDB, that does not mean that it is ‘above the law.’
The Minister of Agriculture has further directed GRDB to support farmers desirous of taking legal action against MRL to recover all outstanding monies owed to them.
In the meantime, various options are being considered to ensure that the company honours its obligations to the farmers. (Tusika Martin)
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