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Mar 8, 2016

Citrus Industry Payroll Woes Should Be Resolved Soon

Speaking on the adjournment in response to a question raised, the PM also spoke at length about a current crisis facing the citrus industry. In a release issued late last week, the Citrus Growers Association informed growers that making payroll in the immediate future will be an iffy proposition. As explanation, the CGA claims that it has not received payment from Citrus Products of Belize Limited, since the CPBL is awaiting approval for the use of a loan facility from Heritage Bank, allegedly approved since late 2015. The alleged villain in the deal has been the Central Bank of Belize, which needed to approve the ten million dollar loan before Heritage could disburse the monies. The accusation by CPBL has been that the Central Bank has been dragging its heels, but today the PM dispelled that assertion at length.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“The Central Bank met perhaps two weeks or so ago…the Board for various—I’m sure they had their usual agenda. But principal on their agenda at that time was the application by Heritage for permission to make the ten million dollar advance to CPBL. As I understand it, the Central Bank Board felt that there was more information that was needed before they could make a decision and they sent out a request to Heritage for the additional documentation to be submitted. In the mean time, the Central Bank pointed out to Heritage that to the extent of three and a half million dollars, there was no need for Heritage to get Central Bank approval. In other words it had enough head room with respect to its capital requirements. You can’t lend beyond a certain percentage of the capital that you have; all that is perhaps too technical to be bothered with. Bottom line was, Heritage was able to advance three and a half million out of the ten to CPBL without the Central Bank having to actually pass a decision on the totality of the loan application. Central Bank pointed this out to Heritage and Heritage advanced that three and a half million. So it is now a matter of the difference between the three and a half and the ten that Heritage originally sought to lend. The Central Bank Board was to have a meeting on Friday. I don’t believe that the additional documentation was at that point received. I’m not sure how quickly after Central Bank said to Heritage look you can lend three and a half million without the need for any permission, but will mean time differ our decision on the balance of the loan. I am not sure how quickly after they did that, they sent to Heritage to say get in your documentation so that we can have our deliberations and make a final determination as soon as possible. In any event, the documentation as of Friday had not yet been received and it turned out that the Central Bank Board couldn’t have a quorum…various people were traveling so that meeting didn’t come off. The meeting is now set for tomorrow as I understand it.”

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