By Aaron Humes: Today citrus producer company Citrus Products of Belize Limited (CPBL) announced it will not be able to pay this week’s payroll to growers, pending the Central Bank of Belize approving an application made to Heritage Bank in December for 10 million Belize dollars in working capital.
Yesterday, Leader of the Opposition John Briceño revealed that he first heard of the matter while on a tour down South.
The outstanding payments total about 2 million dollars per week. CPBL’s chief financial officer, Kent Herrera, told us via telephone this evening that Heritage was able to release about 35 percent of the facility to address urgent payments, but any further funding waits on the Central Bank’s approval to Heritage
According to Herrera, CPBL usually seeks working capital to tide them over during the early part of the citrus harvest season, when monies are not forthcoming from sales of product. Today, Central Bank Governor Glenford Ysaguirre would not comment.
However, the Citrus Growers’ Association (CGA) has registered its concerns, with the news coming in the middle of a torrid period for agriculture in general. According to CEO Henry Anderson, it is a simple matter of meeting expenses, especially to labour.
Anderson told us that small and medium-sized farms together deliver more boxes of citrus than the larger farms on average for the past few years; this kind of delay, he said, hurts their pockets more.
The joint press release issued by both entities says and we quote, “(CPBL) has gone to great lengths to advocate for a timely attention to this matter but it has become apparent that all such efforts to date have been fruitless.” End quote.
Anderson told us that CPBL, which was reported to be in financial difficulties before Government stepped in in 2014 and sent off then-CEO Dr. Henry Canton, has paid back its assistance from Government and Heritage Bank in 2014 and 2015, covering a shortfall of 4 to 5 million occasioned by the withdrawal of First Caribbean Bank from the original 19 million dollar loan facility.
According to Herrera, even from that time First Caribbean had been releasing larger clients in anticipation of winding up its services in Belize.
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