Businessman Jack Charles got bad news from the court yesterday when Justice Sonia Young denied his application for judicial review as it relates to the three containers of Guyanese rice he has at the Big Creek Port in southern Belize. The court agreed that Charles had put the cart before the horse and proceeded to bring the rice in prior to obtaining a permit to do so. Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay in an interview yesterday told the media that having a grain coming into the country untested would put consumers at unnecessary risk – this was one of the arguments put before the court yesterday.
“We do not want rice that has not been subject to test to be brought into Belize. It constitutes a risk not only to the agricultural sector but also to food security and safety because it would not have been tested. There was put before the court an article from 2014 where rice was exported from Guyana to Chile where the rice was found to be contaminated and it was returned. We are not advocating that Belize should bear that risk. That rice has not been tested by Belizean authorities it should leave Belize; the quicker the better.”
Courtenay went on to speak on the argument that Charles had put forth regarding affordability for the consumers.
“How can somebody in good conscience promote the importation of rice to benefit the rice farmers of Guyana, to make a profit for himself and himself alone, one person and say to hell with the domestic producers of rice; to hell with all the people that are planting, distributing, all the people who have jobs in the fields, and mills, all the people in the distribution center to hell with them? Listen one has to be honest when one is attempting to be charitable. Mr.Charles wants the people of Belize to believe that he loves them so much that he is going bring in rice into Belize for .69 cents. Listen fool di talk but da noh fool di listen. After he brings in the first few containers for .69 cents what stops Mr.Charles from taking it up to .89 cents and .90 cents? There is no alternative. Mr.Charles says that he is going to bring in rice for 20% of the market, what stops him from going to 25% what stops him from going to 30%. There is nothing charitable about what he is doing. He does not have the interest of the Belizean consumer at heart, he has his pocket as his primary interest. Nobody can quarrel with him with that except that we live in a country where you have a government that has taken a decision with respect with the rice industry that it is going to safeguard the rice industry as an important contributor to development, GDP and also to employment. So please take that sad story somewhere else.”
Charles has been ordered by the Customs and Excise Department to either return to rice to Guyana or have it destroyed.