Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha acknowledges that local rice farmers are still owed money for a shipment of rice made to Panama in 2018, and said the Government is still working towards resolving this.
To date, the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) is yet to receive an outstanding payment of approximately $1 billion from the Government of Panama to satisfy a debt incurred by Panama for a rice shipment.
The current administration is actively working to resolve this issue which is regarded as a result of failings by the previous administration to show interest in the farmers. The coalition has denied responsibility for this matter.
The Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha made this announcement during an engagement with farmers in Essequibo.
“I know for a fact that those farmers who owe y’all, they have been owed by the Panamanian Government. In the last Government, they supplied paddy to Panama and they were not paid. Our President will have a conversation with the Panamanian President, I’m now preparing a brief for him. Hopefully we can have that payment because they (Panama) acknowledge (the outstanding payment).”
Guyana shipped a substantial amount of rice to Panama and contracts were signed in 2018 and 2019. Since then, only a partial payment has been made on the 2018 agreement.
This is just one of multiple controversies concerning the Panama market since, in 2018 as well, a shipment of rice from Guyana was rejected on arrival in Panama since it did not meet the stipulated specification outlined by that country.
In January 2021, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) was invited to assist Guyana in retrieving the $1.184 billion owed.
Panama has acknowledged the arrears and committed to making the payment. It is uncertain at this point when the farmers can expect to receive that payment.
Earlier this month, two Essequibo rice millers moved to the High Court in hopes of securing the payment of millions of dollars owed to them by the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) for the supply of rice to the Panamanian market.