first_imgAfter 5 months…After five long months of repeatedly having their hopes dashed, rice farmers on the Essequibo Island of Wakenaam were finally paid for the produce they had sold a popular miller on the Essequibo Coast. Their payment comes approximately five weeks ahead of harvesting for the current crop, due in early September.Before this payment was effected, farmers had vented their frustrations at the prolonged delay, saying that the end of this crop would have passed without them being paid. However, as media reports highlighted the months of non-payment the farmers were being made to endure, the farmers finally received the monies that were owed to them.According to information received, the Essequibo rice miller handed out several cheques on Thursday last. Even as they are satisfied at having been paid, farmers say they continue to face difficulties in trying to repay loans taken to acquire fertiliser, fuel, and equipment.The farmers had earlier disclosed that the miller had, since March, milled their paddy into rice. <> had reported that farmers on the Essequibo Coast were also owed, and it was related that many there had also received cheques.The five months it took the miller to discharge his obligation to the farmers is said to be a violation of the Rice Factories (Amendment) Act of 2009, which says that farmers should not wait longer than the mandatory 42 days to be paid for their paddy.According to the Act, the manufacturer (miller) is required to pay the paddy producer (the farmer) half the amount due him upfront, and the rest within two weeks of receiving that farmer’s paddy. However, the situation has garnered its share of complications, as millers continue to hold out that Government-owned entity the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) owes them over $2 billion in outstanding payments from Panama deals dating back to 2017.Head of the GRDB, Nizam Hassan, later claimed that GRDB is not responsible for payment delays from buyers in Panama. His superior, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder, said, “Millers should desist from using the farmers as a bank.”Minister Holder and Hassan met the Panamanian Institute of Agricultural Marketing on March 18, 2016, and a commitment was announced for Guyana to supply an increased quota of rice.“Our Government is extremely pleased that you (Panama) are happy with the services we (GRDB) have been supplying since the commencement of our relationship… I would like to assure you that the GRDB will continue to provide the same excellent and professional service to your Government,” Minister Holder had said following that meeting.The Guyana Rice Millers Association (GRMA) has maintained the position that millers are signing agreements with GRDB, which has a Government-to-Government arrangement with Panama, and as such, GRDB has an obligation to pay millers.GRMA Head, Leekha Rambrich, observed in June that GRDB was violating laws that govern the sector, with particular focus on its delayed payments to millers under the Panama deal.He posited that with the signing of the Panama contract, the GRDB “is committing itself to a six-month payment plan”, whereby rice would be obtained and payments would come six months after. Rambrich contends that this would be tantamount to withholding payments from farmers.Millers had outlined that they were operating in overdraft. <> reported that banks requested a payment schedule in which millers outlined how they would pay back the funds. Reports are that GRDB promised to pay millers for Panama payments since September last year, but revised the payment deadline to April 30, 2018.last_img

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