By Marion Ali
Jack Charles’ three containers of imported Guyanese rice, which the Courts ruled had to leave Belize, are on their way back to Guyana.
The re-exportation is barely within the Wednesday deadline granted by the Supreme Court for the grain to leave, or consequently be taken over by the Customs and Excise Department for destruction or distribution.
Charles, the importer, informed the Reporter on Wednesday night, that the rice left Belize on Tuesday for Guyana. He had to complete filing requisite documentation to have the product shipped back to Guyana. Charles had to send the rice all the way across the Caribbean and back to the South American country because he could not find a buyer within the two-week span that the court gave him to get it out of Belize.
But getting the rice out of Belize was half of the businessman’s worry; the other half is now having to find just under $40,000 to pay for the freight and storage at the Big Creek port, where the rice remained from the day it landed in Belize.
Charles had imported the rice the week before Christmas with the intent to retail it, but instead landed in a legal tug-o-war with the Customs and Excise Department and the Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA). The Supreme Court had ruled that Charles did not follow proper procedure by applying for the mandatory sanitary and phyto-sanitary permits to import the rice.
Earlier this month, Deputy Prime Minister, Gaspar Vega visited Guyana and settled with his counterparts there on a bilateral trade agreement over the importation of rice. That agreement allows for Guyanese rice to be imported into Belize, but only when the local supply does not meet the demand.
This agreement restricts Charles, who had placed an order for seven additional containers of rice from Guyana. He has since put a hold on that order.