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Dec 17, 2015

Guyana Rice Blocked at Big Creek Port

A shipment of milled rice from Guyana arrived at the Big Creek Port in southern Belize overnight where it remains at present. At the port, all was quiet and calm throughout the day. Shortly before two o’clock, businessman Jack Charles, accompanied by former C.E.O. in the Ministry of Agriculture, Sergio Garcia, made their way to the BAHA quarantine office where they met with Senior Quarantine Inspector Israel Pitts.  Acting on instructions from his bosses, Pitts informed the importer during a lengthy back and forth that the shipment would not be released today.  That is because the requisite paperwork, including an application for a permit, had purportedly not been submitted.  Jack Charles is bucking horns with the Agro-productive Sector claiming he can bring in the staple to retail at lower prices and while he has applied for a permit there has been no response from authorities. So what’s next? He says that a decision will be taken after giving government sufficient time to rethink its position on the deadlock. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The arrival of a consignment of a hundred and fifty thousand pounds of rice from Guyana at Big Creek has been met with a blockade by the Belize Agricultural Health Authority, BAHA.

 

Israel Pitts

Israel Pitts, Senior Quarantine Inspector, BAHA

“Based on the instructions from my supervisor; that I explained to the importer, we are detaining the cargo, the shipment of rice. And if there is further information that he needs, he can contact my supervisor.”

 

Businessman Jack Charles, proprietor of RC Imports, the company that is bringing the rice into the country, headed south today in an attempt to clear the cargo.  Not to his surprise, he was unsuccessful despite presenting paperwork indicating that he had applied for a permit to import the three containers of processed grain.

 

Jack Charles, Proprietor, RC Imports

“As you can see, I had already processed my customs entry to get my goods to be released and after the customs, we have to come to get clearance from the BAHA. Yes, as you guys know, we don’t have the permit, but we had already applied for it—the BAHA SPS requirements—but we had already applied in July right. And we are here; we brought all the documents, all the certificates needed basically. Those the same kind of certificates they had used for the last year importation of rice from Guyana.”

 

According to existing regulations, in the absence of a permit importers can only be fined before having the shipment released to their custody.  Regional Trade Specialist Sergio Garcia, who represents RC Imports elaborates.

 

Sergio Garcia

Sergio Garcia, Regional Trade Specialist

“Where an importer of a regulated commodity or product fails to produce an import permit, for such regulated commodity or product as prescribed under regulation six in the presence of supporting documents such as the phytosanitary certificate/certificate of origin, he should be liable to an administrative penalty of two hundred dollars per consignment in addition to an inspection fee of one hundred dollars, which would have been applicable in this position. Why? Because we have applied for a permit; it is a reasonable expectation of the importer because under the regulations and WTO and the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, the only time you can reject an application, you must give a reason in writing to allow that client to appeal the decision that you have made. In this situation, after the application, nothing has been received from BAHA in writing saying we have rejected the application. So sometimes we say silence is good and everybody went with the expectation that this will be approved.”

 

Failing the approval of the permit, Jack Charles is allowing government a day to provide a written reason for the denial before considering legal options.  According to the importer, his rights under the CSME framework have been violated.

 

Jack Charles

Jack Charles

“The office of BAHA as you can see basically, the decision has been taken by somebody else. Currently, I will just wait for a day or two; at least I’ll give them until tomorrow to see exactly if they have any legal grounds to present to me. But again, like I said, if they had the legal ground and they know the rice is coming on Thursday—from last week, they know this rice is coming on Thursday. I was more hoping that as I entered the BAHA office, along with the decision, I would just be given a paper saying that here it is, these are our grounds to hold it and walk out. We didn’t have to stand for another forty-five minutes and argue and discuss and all of this. Actually we didn’t get no kind of grounds in black and white, no section, no chapter, nothing. This rice is going to control all the contraband rice coming from across the borders. We are concentrating on twenty percent of the conception; we still have eighty percent of the market which we have no intention to get into. We are not here to create any import monopoly. And certainly farmers like Toledo who are collecting thirty cents for a pound and paying a dollar and twenty-cents for a pound of rice; that is completely out of, what should I say, humanness.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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3 Responses for “Guyana Rice Blocked at Big Creek Port”

  1. Belizean Pride says:

    awesome, next move is to have all retail shops not to buy from him and to let him get the idea that we want to support our local producers. If you look at him closely, to sell premium grade A rice at .69cent a lb it means he is getting the lb maybe at .20-.25 cents a lb in guyana which seems a little suspicious for such grade rice. Anyways lets stand for our local producers don’t buy this rice buy our local rice.

  2. Bzean Brain says:

    Naturally Belizean Pride you do not understand the meaning of Trade… if countries like Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad do apply your logic naturally Belize will be unable to sell them corn, beans, blackeye peas and corn meal… so guess who looses? We live in a globalized world gone are the days of protectionist policy and you are right consumers have a choice what they want to buy..

  3. Belizean says:

    Make him send that rice back to Guyana, he knew very well he was not gonna get permit to import the rice. He wants to play dirty, let him learn the hard way.

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