The Guyana Rice Producers Association (GRPA) is accusing the Government of failing to honour their promises of equality and betterment since rice millers and exporters have been waiting for over two years to be paid by the Guyana Rice Development Board for rice exported to Panama.“We recently learnt that the payments of approximately $2 billion is due to these millers/exporters since July 2017. Our millers supply the rice to the GRDB, the contracted party with Panama over the life of two contracts and are still awaiting payments. We are of the strong view that the GRDB, is in a sound financial position based on the amount of levies collected from exports over the years, to pay these millers either fully or at least a substantial amount of the total due,” the GRPA said in a statement on Friday.The rice farmers’ representative body noted that the sector is severely affected by the amount owed to the millers/exporters, adding that some of them are on the verge of bankruptcy while others cannot invest in the further development of their facilities. The body explained that the failure to pay the millers/exporters will affect the efficiency of the industry as well as profitability.According to the RPA, payments to suppliers for rice will better serve the industry that “the squandering of the GRDB money over ill thought projects that are absolute failures. The failure of the GRDB, a Government agency to pay the millers is another betrayal of another campaign promise by the coalition Government of the APNU/AFC.”In August of 2014, Guyana was able to ink a five-year deal with the Government of Panama for 5000 tonnes of rice per month. At the time of signing the agreement, the Agriculture Ministry said Panama imports about 150,000 tons of rice annually, through the Private Sector and the agreement between the two governments was to ensure Panamanians have access to rice at an affordable price.“The agreement means that Guyana can supply more than 50,000 tons of rice to Panama on an annual basis through the Government to Government arrangement and also compete in an open market to supply some of the remaining 100,000 tons per year,” then Agriculture Minister Leslie Ramsammy, noted.For years rice farmers have been complaining about the price they have been receiving for paddy, coupled with poor infrastructure.Finance Minister Winston Jordan, in his 2018 Budget presentation, noted that the rice industry was expected to record an output of 602,087 tonnes for 2017, an increase of 12.7 per cent over 2016. He credited the increase mainly to an additional 14,000 hectares planted for the 2017 spring crop and a further 74,481 hectares planted in the autumn crop.He added that the Government is committed to improving the livelihoods of rice farmers, revealing that they will collaborate with the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), through the Malaysia Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI), in updating the expertise and technology in rice production, through a Reverse Linkage Project to the tune of US$863,000. This will be done through the introduction of 53 innovative rice varieties from MARDI that are more resilient and will significantly increase rice yields per unit.