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Nov 16, 2011

Citrus Industry Soap Opera continues

It has been a little under three weeks since the start of a new crop season and tensions within the fickle citrus industry were simmering on Tuesday but tonight it appears there might be a resolution in sight to the latest problem. It started Tuesday when the management of Citrus Products Belize Ltd. notified growers that the company is unable to withdraw the two million US dollars that’s necessary to meet its full fruit payroll. That payout was due today and this evening the requisite paperwork that requires the signature of directors of Investment Company Limited, a CGA subsidiary was about to be penned.  The documents, according to Dr. Henry Canton, are required to access CPBL’s financing facilities with First Caribbean International Bank in order to meet its overhead expenses.  Canton told News Five today that he had delivered the documents for signature, and that the management of CPBL was trying its best to avert a shutdown of the factory.

Dr. Henry Canton, C.E.O., Citrus Products Belize Ltd.

Henry Canton

“What it is Isani is that the company took, management of the company thought that it would be proper for us to notify growers that the financing that we have to pay for fruit would have dried up by the end of this week or even on some of the fruit that is to be paid this week because there are certain banking documents that need the signatures of directors.  We thought that it is prudent to notify growers that there’s this possibility instead of coming payday we are not able to pay them and then it becomes a much bigger issue.  What that has become is that by issuing the press release it has really helped because some of the larger growers have agreed to not accept payments to allow us to pay the small growers with what little money we have available.  So this payday we are hoping to at least be able to pay the smaller farmers who are a lot more dependent on the cash flow that they have.  However, I must say that there is some activity by some directors at ICL trying their hardest to get the document signed so that we could have access to the funding.  I have all the documents on hand.  I am just waiting to find out where to send them for signature [and] if that happens and we can get the bank to speed up the period on which draw down of monies are available to make the money available then we may not have a problem; or if we have a problem it may only be for this week and we can catch up next week.  We do not want to close the factory because it’s a critical time especially for grapefruit and we would like to do business as usual.”

Isani Cayetano

“Now Dr. Canton this comes on the heels of recent contentions over the opening of the factory.  Can you speak to us [on] how this can be resolved either in the short or long term?”

Dr. Henry Canton

“Well I believe Isani it’s getting to a point where the directors and creditors are going to, at some point, have to meet.  Whether management is involved or not involved I don’t know but I think that this cannot continue to go on.  The industry, the citrus industry is far too critical for the country, not for any one individual or two individuals but for the country.”

This latest crisis comes on the heels of recent controversy surrounding the intake of early variety fruit at the start of the crop season at the end of October.

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