Belize Marketing and Development Corporation, BMDC is the statutory body responsible for the regulation and distribution of rice countrywide. The staple for the Belizean consumer is purchased from local rice growers up north and in Toledo. Today, among the rice debate on whether an importer should be allowed to bring in cheap Guyanese rice, the BMDC is making headlines once more but because of a delay in payment to Toledo rice growers. Our colleagues at PGTV spoke with one independent farmer, Adriano Villafranco who grew about 1 hundred 80 acres of rice this year and sold over 6 hundred thousand tonnes for about 37 cents per pound to BMDC. But, half of the payment has yet to be received. Here is Villafranco on how this affects them
Mr. Adriano Villafranco, Toledo Rice Farmer: You kere yoh rice there and they pay yoh half price, they pay yoh 50%. At one time couples year back they mi owe we fi a year or more. And so that still is happening today, 50% is delivered and the next 50% if they find money before Christmas they promise.
Reporter: So this Christmas you nuh get your money yet?
Mr. Adriano Villafranco, Toledo Rice Farmer: not yet.
Reporter: And they owe you over $80,000?
Mr. Adriano Villafranco, Toledo Rice Farmer: Well I have my bank loan too but out of that, you know but yes. Anyways, that di keep we back. I have my bank loan to pay and my interest the go up, and they nuh want help with the interest, so I must take the lost on interest but they nuh want go borrow money fi go pay interest pan they own. You nuh have the finances fi go back inna yoh field, do what you have to do, or pay up yoh loans so you could get money fi next years loan and that keep back the farmer.
Here is what Agriculture CEO Jose Alpuche had to say about the delay in payment:
Jose Alpuche CEO Ministry Agric: I’m not aware what is owed right now but in the past we’ve had difficulties where they’re owed for a long period of time. I’m aware that the BMDC has actually said that they’ll be paid on the 22nd if I’m not mistaken. So what is happening down there is not out of the ordinary. They have been paid, and you will recall before we came to the Ministry we use to have frantic calls on the rice industry down south but we’ve been trying our leveled best to help the farmers down south.
Of note is that this is not the first time BMDC has been late with payments to the rice farmers.