Guyana engages IICA for outstanding Panama rice payments

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Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha

Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha on Friday said the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) has been invited to assist Guyana in retrieving the $1.9 billion owed to rice millers by the Panamanian authorities.

In an interview with the Department of Public Information (DPI), the Minister said he is hopeful that the matter would be resolved soon.

“Hopefully, shortly the Minister of Agriculture of Panama and myself will have a meeting on this matter. I am optimistic that after that meeting, we can have the payment.”

Guyana shipped a substantial amount of rice to Panama and two contracts were signed; one in 2018 and another in 2019. However, only a partial payment has been made on the 2018 agreement to date.

Since taking office, the PPP/C Government has taken robust steps to ensure that the Spanish-speaking country pays the outstanding sums.

As part of the measures, on November 27 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dispatched a letter to the Government there indicating the need for urgency in honouring the obligations to Guyana.

President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali also intervened and Panama acknowledged the arrears and has since committed to making the payment.

Despite the circumstances, Minister Mustapha says the Panamanian Government continues to show interest in Guyana’s rice.

“They have also indicated their interest that they want to continue with the contract that we have but I am waiting for this meeting and ICCA is making the arrangement,” he explained.

Minister Mustapha blames the previous APNU+AFC Government for the delays, noting that if they had shown interest in the farmers, this dilemma would not have existed. The previous administration had said that it was not responsible for farmers being owed by millers for rice to shipped to Panama.