A rice miller has decided that enough is enough and has taken the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) to court over their failure to pay in excess of US $500,000 owed to him after he had delivered over 2000 metric tons of rice and paddy.
According to writs, filed on August 4 and 5 last, the Plaintiff, Ramnarace Ramlakhan of Ramlakhan & Son Rice Mill is suing the GRDB for alleged failure to honour to contractual agreements, which resulted in him losing millions.
In one of the court documents, the Rice Miller is claiming damages in excess of GYD $86.2M from the GRDB, which he claims he lost, following the breach of contract entered on April 15, 2015.
In another, Ramlakhan is claiming US$ 285,760, a balance he claims is owed to him for the delivery of 1000 metric tons of white rice which he delivered, under the agreement and an additional US $285,760 for breach of an oral agreement between himself and the rice board.
The Writ detailed that the GRDB had agreed to purchase from the businessman 3000 metric tons of long grain paddy at the US$480.00 per ton and 1000 metric tons of white rice at US$760.00 per ton between April and June 2015.
The Miller said that he subsequently purchased the paddy for the sole purpose of supplying his contractual obligation.
However the court document stated that, the plaintiff supplied 1,246.09 metric tons of long grain paddy to the Rice Board in April, May and June, 2015 but was asked not to deliver the remaining 1,753.09 tons until further notice.
Thereafter, on July 15, Ramlakhan was informed by GRDB that it would not purchase the remaining balance and furthermore, that he should make efforts to sell it elsewhere.
The hapless miller claimed that he could not do otherwise, so he sold the outstanding balance of paddy to another buyer at a rate per ton of US$240.00. Considering that the original price offered by the GRDB was US$480 per ton, Ramlakhan is claiming losses amounting to over 86.2M for the paddy.
Additionally Ramlakhan is claiming for US $ 285,760, a balance he claims is owed to him under an arrangement for the delivery of 1000 metric tons of white rice, which the GRDB agreed to pay for under a separate agreement. The rice miller claims that the Board only paid for 624 tons.
The balance represents payments for the remaining 376 tons.
The legal document outlined that via oral agreement, it was agreed that GRDB would purchase an additional 296 metric tons of long grain white rice at the same rate of US$760 per ton. This was delivered in the same month, but on 28th July GRDB instructed Ramlakhan to take it back.
Ramlakhan refused, demanding payment instead. However according to the document, the Board had refused, neglected or failed to pay the plaintiff, resulting in a claim for US $285,760 or its equivalent in Guyana dollars, for breaching the oral agreement.
The writ was issued on behalf of the rice miller by Attorney at law Neil Boston and Associates. In response to the suit, a representative (s) of GRDB is mandated to appear in High Court on 16th September, 2015.
The document stipulated that failure by the defendants (GRDB) to enter an appearance could result in judgment being granted against them in their absence. When contacted on Wednesday last, a representative of the GRDB noted that the Board has already engaged its lawyers on the issue.
Recently, the rice development board had ordered millers to repossess almost 300 containers of rice left stranded on the wharf after Venezuela ordered a ‘temporary’ halt to shipments coming from Guyana. The reason for this was that Guyana was shipping rice outside of its allotted schedule.
This directive did not go down well, with millers and farmers registering their discontent against the Government and Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder. There had also been talk of the “legal ramifications.”
On July 11th, it was reported that Venezuela had issued a directive for Guyana to cease all paddy and rice shipments to the country with immediate effect, four Months before the PetroCaribe agreement/contract was scheduled to come to an end.
Venezuela’s decision regarding the rice deal had come at a time when it was claiming sovereignty over Guyana’s waters, since the significant oil find by American oil giant, Exxon Mobil just 100 miles off of the Stabroek Block.
Subsequently, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder had sought to assuage concerns, stating that Venezuela had only instructed Guyana to ‘slow down’ shipments to the Oil producing country and return to the original shipping patterns. The Minister had provided assurances that the deal was not in jeopardy and that shipments had actually overwhelmed the Venezuelan rice officials, necessitating the directive.
Despite this, Millers were instructed late last month to take back their rice and sell it to other markets, a directive that drew heavy criticism from millers, as the rice was already in the possession of GRDB. Millers have also had to incur expenses associated with the moving and repackaging process.
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