Oct 02, 2018 News
The fallout from what has been deemed to be a bad shipment of rice to Panama is deeply worrying millers and raising more questions about the monitoring by Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB).
Yesterday, the Guyana Rice Exporters and Millers Association (GREMA) convened a meeting at the John Fernandes Limited boardroom, Georgetown to discuss the problem.
According to Chairman of the Association, Ragindra Persaud, after the meeting, the regulatory body, Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) has asked that the rice be sent back to Guyana so that auditors can make a more detailed check.
According to Persaud, a miller who is also Chairman of the Nand Persaud and Company Limited, the producers of Karibee Rice, the issue is a worrying one but it is too early to draw conclusions.
“We have to replace the shipment to Panama and we are working on the modalities of that at the moment.”
However, while the miller declined to go into details, other sources were scathing in their criticisms of GRDB.
“We have a regulatory body in charge of rice and it was supposed to ensure that shipments are in keeping with contracts that we signed. How can you say that we (made a) mistake and send parboil rice instead? Who are you fooling? This could jeopardize our market,” another official pointed out.
According to millers present, GRDB’s General Manager, Nizam Hassan, was there too.
With him was the deputy, Allison Peters.
It was during the meeting that it was suggested that from early indications that maybe parboiled rice was shipped. That rice is much different in colour from white rice making it difficult to understand how such a mistake could be made.
However, that argument was not being bought by a number of angry millers at the meeting.
In fact, it was disclosed that the shipment of rice, involving more than 1100 tonnes, had labels that purportedly showed it came from Techno Mills, an operations that is in Eccles, East Bank Demerara.
“Here is where it got strange. GRDB officials are strict, real strict, and check fine, fine. So you are by a particular mill and sealing the container. How come it has a different tag and different rice from the contract?”
The situation has reportedly affected Techno Mills, which is partly owned by a Panamanian businessman.
Since news over a month now with shipment being rejected by Panama, that country has also halted shipments from Techno Mills.
“You gotta understand Techno Mills, separate from country-to-country deal with Panama, also was doing shipments separately. So, this is where the situation gets very touchy. GRDB cannot handle this investigation.
“I am saying that if there is collusion at GRDB, an independent probe, a serious one, has to be launched. I am saying to you, Kaieteur News, that something smells bad,” the official said.
The shipments were made over a month ago and are from an arrangement dating back since 2014, when the previous administration was in power.
With the cessation of the rice-for-oil deal with Venezuela in 2015, the Panamanian market has been the most lucrative market for Guyana with a loss of it at this time a harsh blow for an industry that is now back on its sea legs.
While Kaieteur News, in breaking the story last week, reported that it was just over 20 containers, officials said that from indications, this is expected to rise to 33 in a few days as Panamanian authorities continue to make their checks.
The local miller, C. Cayume Hakh and Sons, whose rice it reportedly was, has been stopped from shipping until the investigations have been completed.
Guyana has reentered and found a number of new markets in the last few years, including Mexico, Panama and Cuba.
Rice is the biggest foreign currency earner after gold.
In recent years, there have been growing concerns over the management of the rice sector with recurring allegations of wrongdoing involving collusions to fix grades and even allow certain millers lucrative quotas for key markets.
Last week, rice miller, Dr. Turhane Doerga, in blowing the whistle on the rice shipments rejected by Panama, said that Guyana has to send a clear message that there will be no repeat.
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