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SOCU probing Panama rice shipment fiasco

AN investigation into the alleged false labeling, corruption and collusion in sending several containers of the wrong rice to Panama has commenced, a top source at the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) has said.

Cezar Juan Trevino

SOCU commenced the interviewing of officials that were a part of the shipment, the Guyana Chronicle was told by head of the agency, Sydney James.

Cesar Juan Treviño

SOCU’s probe was triggered by a complaint from Co-Chair of the Rice Producers Association Action Committee, Jinnah Rahaman. Rahaman in his complaint to the Commissioner of Police, Leslie James, calling for an investigation into the matter said almost two months ago, Guyana’s most lucrative rice market, Panama suffered a major challenge after authorities there rejected a number of containers at the ports. Rahaman said it was found, from samples, that the rice was not in conformity to the agreement Guyana signed.

Cezar Trevino

Reports indicate that the Panamanian authorities in checking other containers found that the rice appeared to be of the wrong quality and this was the same in over 30 containers, all of which were rejected. A report was also filed with the Guyana Revenue Authority.

Cezar Treviño

The rice was reportedly sent by Cayume Hakh and Sons rice mills and the miller would have to stand the cost of having the containers shipped back. The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) is expected to take custody of the containers and conduct an audit. On the bags of rice, officials said that they found labels belonging to another miller who denied that they gave their labels to anyone

However, assurance has been given by General Manager of GRDB, Nizam Hassan, that there is no threat to the lucrative market for Guyana’s rice. Further, the GRDB head said there is an ongoing investigation to determine whether or not there was a deliberate effort to deceive, on the part of millers, or it was a genuine operational error. “We are still investigating to identify whether it was an operational issue or whether it was a deliberate effort. I cannot comment on that because the investigation is in progress. If it was an operational issue, because from our reports thus far, the miller is using this packaging facility that bags and packages white rice and parboiled rice using the same line. However, we have only just received photos saying this is what we found. It does not necessarily mean that an entire container has parboiled rice; it may have been a few bags,” the GRDB head explained

According to Hassan, systems have now been strengthened to prevent a recurrence of any similar situation. Meanwhile, back in July, GRDB disclosed that results from the first rice crop of 2018–January to June– show an export volume increase of 87,000 tonnes as compared to the same period last year. “When we look at the figures compared to the first half of 2017, we saw first that the total volume that has been exported is 290,000 tonnes which is 43 per cent more than the 203,000 tonnes that was exported during the first half of 2017,” Hassan said. The increase at that point had earned the country GYD$23.2Billion (US$111Million) this year against the value of the export for the first half of 2017 which was GYD$16.1Billion (US$77Million)


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