File photo: A lot of rice is exported from Guyana, but it needs to be paid for.

GEORGETOWN, Guyana–November 29th 2020–The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday dispatched a letter to the Panamanian authorities urging them to honor their obligations to Guyana and to pay the $1.9 billion owed to rice millers.

This measure was taken as the Government continues to take urgent steps to retrieve the outstanding sums.

In an interview with DPI on Friday, Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha said the Spanish-speaking country acknowledged the arrears and has since committed to paying the sum soon.

Photo: Guyana Government Information Service. Minister Mustapha shows the letter that was sent to the Panamanian government about the money owed to the rice millers.

“They wanted the contract to continue in the new year. Since then to now, they have indicated that they will pay, but they are awaiting the end of this pandemic,” Minister Mustapha said. To follow up the letter, the Minister said he will be contacting Panama’s Minister of Agriculture in the new week, to fix a date for the money to be released.

Minister Mustapha also said the Government remains committed to recouping the sums and will continue to make representation for the rice industry.  He said the matter could have been resolved a long time ago, had the previous administration shown “some interest” in the concerns of rice farmers.

Minister Mustapha has been engaging the Panamanian Government to ensure that the sum is paid in a timely manner since the PPP/C Government took office in August. The matter has been a priority for the Guyana Government and has been discussed at several Cabinet meetings.  President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali has also held talks with the Panamanian Government on the issue.