Oct 23, 2015 News
– forced to send home employees
Local manufacturing and distribution company, Sueria Manufacturing Inc., has been forced to downsize its operations, sending home at least 10 of its staffers from its Distribution Department in the process.
Frank Sanichara, the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), said the move is as a result of the entity facing months of discrimination and harassment by the Food and Drugs Department.
Speaking with Kaieteur News yesterday, Sanichara said that he is at his wit’s end and is contemplating closing down his distribution unit since he believes products that he imports from the United States and Canada are being unfairly targeted.
To date, the company has incurred losses to the tune of millions of dollars as a result of moves by the department. The regulatory body, Sanichara said, constantly changes either its requirements for importation or finds other unconventional ways of placing a hold on his stocks.
The businessman said that he cannot continue sustaining the losses.
Sueria Manufacturing Inc. is the local company owned by Sanichara and his businesswoman wife, Teshawna Lall. They remigrated to invest in Guyana.
Based at Eccles Industrial Site, East Bank Demerara, the company has been producing Kaieteur Candies. It holds the exclusive rights to import several international brands including Guzzler Juice, Juicy-Juice and Tropical Delight.
According to the CEO, since the company opened its doors, there have been costly hiccups with the Food and Drugs Department. This year recorded the worst instances of such hiccups.
Sanichara was forced to dump millions of dollars worth of potato chips back in June after the department claimed that the goods were expired. This occurred despite his efforts to prove they were not.
By the time the department realised its “mistake”, the items had expired. “I had to watch as millions of dollars in investments were being dumped.”
Again, Sueria Manufacturing incurred losses when the department, in September, pussyfooted on clearing goods imported for the Berbice Exposition and Trade Fair.
The company had planned to launch its new product – Tropical Delight 10 Oz Juice from Canada.
Sanichara said that the containers arrived early on the wharf with hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on advertising and promoting the juice. The department held up the juice, affecting hundreds of customers at the expo.
It did not end there. Earlier this month, the businessman said, the department held up a container of Nestle Juicy Juice and refused to accept an authentic Certificate of Analysis. Instead, the department requested a Free Sale Certificate.
“They had accepted the same Certificate of Analysis only a few weeks before and rejected the Free Sale Certificate that they were now asking for. It’s a clear demonstration of their vindictiveness. After I submitted the Free Sale Certificate which they refused in an earlier shipment, they released my container.”
Sanichara claims that after he wrote the department complaining about the apparent discrimination, sending copies to at least two Ministers, things got worse.
“Last week, they held up all my stuff at the wharf. I called the department over 100 times. I spoke to the Deputy Director at least three times per day. The only answer I got was that the documents are being processed.”
The businessman said that the requirements shifted yet again. The department has now started demanding original copies of certificates even though scanned copies were accepted on all shipments in the past.
“I personally don’t have a problem with providing the originals…but they just can’t simply change their policies at the last minute. They are also asking for me to have the manufacturers amend the format of their Free Sale Certificate to state the quantities shipped per container. The manufacturers will not do that. It’s impossible…the purpose of a Free Sale Certificate is not to list quantities.”
Sanichara explained that big companies like American Beverage probably exports more than 100 containers per day making the issuance of such Free Sale Certificates, daily, an impossibility.
“I spoke to all my suppliers and manufacturers. They said they will not amend their certificates. It is accepted all over the world. It is in keeping with international and free trade agreements standards.”
The businessman also made it clear that the laws of Guyana do not say anything about quantities being listed on the Free Sales Certificate, as is being demanded by the Food and Drugs Department.
Moreover, Sanichara has pointed to the Law of Guyana which stipulates that no article of food, drug, cosmetic or device shall be imported to Guyana unless the article wholly conforms to the laws of the country it was manufactured or produced.
“Nothing is there that says quantity. A Free Sale Certificate basically is a letter saying that the product is good for human consumption. It confirms to the laws of the country in which it was manufactured, signed and notarized by the relevant authorities. That’s all there is to it. The certificates I provided to the Food and Drugs Department in Guyana clearly says that.”
The frustrated businessman said he believes that his company is being victimized by the Government department.
“It seems as though this department has many high-paying friends.”
Sanichara also questioned how is it that such a large quantity of Guzzler juices are being imported into the country when he is the sole authorized distributor.
“How are these items managing to pass the Food and Drugs Department when I am the only one with a Free Sale Certificate and a Certificate of Analysis from American Beverage who is the manufacturer? What more evidence do we need that this department is being vindictive?”
The businessman complained about his growing frustration at doing business in Guyana.
“At this point, I really don’t care to continue to invest in Guyana. I was in the process of starting up a state-of-the-art plantain chips factory but with the way the system operates in Guyana, I do not want to stick around. Their (the department) actions are affecting my cash flow. It is also affecting the Guyana Revenue Authority from collecting their revenues.”
With millions of dollars in goods sitting waiting for clearance, the businessman said he has been forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on demurrage charges.
To make matters worse, Sanichara fears that the money he has invested in the latest shipments of products which are date sensitive may be lost owing to the delays at the wharf.
Sueria earlier this week sent home 10 employees as there is no work. “It’s not something I am proud of…but there are no other options.”
The situation has forced the company to halt advertisements and cancel a number of charitable events planned.
“I am not encouraged to do these things anymore. It is a sad situation that I am being victimised by these people. My wife and I came from a very fast paced environment in the US. We both had very successful careers. But we invested in Guyana hoping to provide employment and contribute to our country of birth. We were expecting that the system would have been friendly towards investors but from the very first month we had hiccups,” Sanichara stressed.
“We have employed more than 50 Guyanese. We have launched a Candy factory, and will be launching a Plantain chips factory within weeks, providing additional employment to hundreds of farmers. We are not here to ask for favours… All we are asking is that you to do the right thing; do the honorable thing.”
The frustrated businessman has written to Marlan Cole, Head of the Foods and Drugs Department, at least two times over the matters.
The letters have been copied to Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton, and Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin. To date, however, there has been no improvement in the situation.
Yesterday, calls were made by this newspaper to the Food and Drugs Department for a comment, but a female official, Miss Sears, said that Mr. Cole was not in.
She promised to pass the information. As at press time, there were no return calls from the department.
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