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Nov 21, 2011

Citrus Growers short U.S. $2 Million

The situation in the citrus belt remains tenuous. Citrus growers are nowhere near getting paid for their produce because the Citrus Products of Belize Limited has been unable to draw down on millions of dollars it needs to meet payments.  CPBL says some directors of the Citrus Growers Association (CGA) have not signed off on security documents required by their bank. It was forecasted that the documentation would have been completed on Friday so that the farmers would have been paid by Tuesday. But the management of CPBL says that the CGA has still not put its signature on the documents. News Five spoke via phone to CPBL’s C.E.O. Henry Canton, who says that at this pace, if the CGA sends over the paperwork on Tuesday, growers may not get paid until Friday or later.

Via Phone: Henry Canton, C.E.O., Citrus Products of Belize

Henry Canton

“Well the access to two million, two and half million U.S. dollars is what the problem is because it’s not just the buying of fruit; we also have to purchase fuel. The processing of citrus requires a substantive amount of fuel and you’re taking hundreds of thousands of dollars for fuel each week. And we need to be paying our fuel bills on a weekly basis if not we can’t draw down fuel. One of the issues that happened to us on Friday last week was that we actually ran out of fuel because of not being able to pay on time and getting delivery on time. Therefore we could not process citrus waste peel into feed. So it affects us at every side—not just on the side of buying fruits from the growers but also from being able to run the factory because we don’t have the available working capital to so do. Today is a dead day. Hopefully we can receive them tomorrow morning and we can do with them what we need to do with them. If not, we’ll not be able to pay growers this week. I’m hoping to do a release on that issue tomorrow.”

Jose Sanchez

“How much money are we talking about that will be withheld because these contracts are not signed?”

Via Phone: Henry Canton

“It has nothing to do with contracts that are not signed. It has to do with banking documents that will allow us to free up money that the bank has for us. It’s not contracts Jose, it is the perfection of security, perfection of collateral that the directors need to sign—two directors in the company need to be put on. It is basically a housekeeping on loan documents that will provide us with working capital to allow us to continue to run the company and buy fruits.”

Jose Sanchez

“Is it possible that there will be other minor paperwork that could also hinder the process after you do receive these particular documents?”

Via Phone: Henry Canton

“I think along with the documents also needs to be a resolution of the board of which they are also to provide and they are aware of that. I’m hoping that if we can get those documents that are required, once the company’s lawyer can vet it and the bank’s lawyers can vet it, we can then go into what we call a draw down period which should take a day, day and a half maybe two days. And that is why I am telling you if the documents are not given to us sooner than later, this week already starts to look iffy.”

In the meantime, the affected growers have been on the airwaves desperately calling for a resolution to this latest turmoil standoff between the CPBL and the CGA.

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