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Nov 7, 2016

Before Pursuing Line of Credit, Citrus Growers Ask Association to Open Books

There is word tonight that there is financial trouble in one of the major industries in the south. Reports from within the citrus industry say that the Citrus Growers Association is seeking a forty-million-dollar line of credit from the Social Security Board. But the CGA is unable to present audited financials to its membership in almost five years.  The recent announcement raises alarms over the CGA’s solvency and there is a move among growers to trigger a special general meeting to get the association to open its books.  This afternoon, well-known citrus grower Anthony Chanona, accompanied by businessman Bryon Bowman, attempted to deliver a petition signed by as many as fifty growers to the CGA’s headquarters in Pomona, but were informed that the secretary was unavailable to accept the letter.  Whether games are being played at the CGA is anyone’s guess; however, the developing situation comes out of a meeting of the board of Citrus Products of Belize Limited held on Saturday.  During that meeting a number of issues were addressed, including the multimillion dollar loan proposal.  The sticking point for members, while not being able to discuss CGA’s internal issues at that forum, was the present state of its financial affairs.  News Five spoke with Chanona this evening and he told us that the validity of the CGA’s committee of management is being called to question.

 

Anthony Chanona

On the Phone: Anthony Chanona, Citrus Grower

“We started a petition drive to the requisite signatures of the CGA members to call the committee of management to a special general meeting because all is not well at the CGA, to say the least.  And myself, along with several persons, many persons have served this industry.  I personally served for over twenty-six years and in all those years, in all those years, I have never witnessed a situation like the one that seems to present itself today whereby citrus growers complain to me that they cannot access revolving funds for this, they cannot access diesel fuel for purchase, they cannot buy citrus inputs as they used to at the association and the bush-hogging and spraying services that was once offered to growers by the association are virtually non-existent.  And, to compound the optics of this picture is the fact that the committee of management has not held an annual general meeting since its last meeting in Red Bank and that was back in March 2013.  So one has to even question the validity of the tenure of office of those persons on the committee.  In fact, the law is very clear on the procedure that there must be annual rotation of three members and they have to sit for elections.  The situation that is prompting this move is a very irresponsible one.  You cannot run a business without financial statements.  I will tell you, the last audited statements growers have seen was for the crop year ending September 30th, 2011.  In fact, CGA members have not seen or received audited statements going on almost five years.  As I repeat, something is wrong and we need truthful disclosure to find out exactly what is wrong so that we can help to fix what is broken.  This is our CGA.  This is something that we have emotional, financial and every other kind of sweat equity and we want to see our association function.  It is the safeguard that helps the small growers and all growers.  We are more also equally concerned and the petition drive includes this, we are concerned about the state of our shares in CPBL.  So at that CPBL board meeting this past Saturday, CGA announced that it was pursuing an initiative to access a line of credit to the industry of almost forty million dollars from the Social Security Board.  But while there might be merits to borrow from the S.S.B. and to support these initiatives, I believe and we believe that those who have signed the petition that this kind of initiative requires consultation with citrus growers and more importantly for the CGA’s house to be in order before we go borrowing workers money in an environment like what currently exists at CGA.  So to sum up my position on that question, our petition drive is requesting a special general meeting, the sole purpose is to receive in-house financials because they keep telling us that they are awaiting audited financials, so we said bring your books that you have, your in-house, your Quickbooks, whatever you, blanks whatever you’re using for your figures we will use that, disclose them to us and let us discuss this at a special general meeting.  Unfortunately, Mr. Bryon Bowman and myself informed the association that we were coming today.  We went there this afternoon and we were told that the secretary is out for the day.  The law says you are to deliver your petition to the secretary.  Now I have been in this industry long enough to know that I find her absence very strange.       They all knew that we were coming today and the purpose was to deliver this petition so I would like to ask the committee of management to please act responsibly and to receive the petition from the growers and let’s deal with this situation.  But if there is mischief in the absence of the secretary please cease and desist from that kind of unbecoming behavior.”

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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