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Efforts ongoing for Panama to pay rice debt to Guyanese millers

Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 February 2021, 12:26 by Denis Chabrol

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha on Wednesday announced that government has taken steps to recover a  GYD$2 billion debt that Panama has owed Guyanese rice exporters, even as he announced that more of the grain was being sold to neighbouring Brazil.

“We are working to resolve that issue, Mr. Speaker,” he said.

He told the National Assembly during debate on the 2021 National Budget that Guyana has picked up “new” rice markets in Hungary and Latvia but he gave no details on how much has been sold or the value.

Mr. Mustapha said Brazil was now set to buy 34,000 tons of rice from Guyana, up from 24,000 tons. The two countries several months ago agreed to increase quantities of exports under an existing partial scope agreement.

The Agriculture Minister criticised opposition A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change’s (APNU+AFC) shadow Agriculture Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan for omitting the debt owed to exporters of the grain to Panama. “The Honourable Member didn’t talk about the Panama debt to Guyana’s rice millers because they signed a contract and they left the rice millers alone,” said Mr. Mustapha. “He didn’t talk about that. He conveniently left that out,” the minister added.

Shortly after the coalition APNU+AFC had won the 2015 general and regional elections, Venezuela had stopped purchasing Guyanese rice under the PetroCaribe initiative. The then government had months later obtained a market in Panama.