Wednesday, November 14, 2001

Gay & Robinson, Ceatech
loans near approval

By Tim Ruel

Kauai companies Gay & Robinson and Ceatech USA are nearing final approval of million-dollar loans under a new state Department of Agriculture program that has recently drawn some contention.

Ceatech needs to negotiate the final terms and conditions of its $2.5 million loan request, said Doreen Shishido, administrator of the department's Agricultural Loan Division. Gay & Robinson's request of $1.8 million, which was temporarily referred to the state Attorney General's Office for legal clarification, now requires final documentation, Shishido said.

An article in the Oct. 26 edition of the Star-Bulletin incorrectly reported that Ceatech's loan had been referred to the Attorney General's Office.

The loans spring from a $5 million fund set up this year by the state Legislature to help agricultural and aquaculture firms on the Garden Island. Originally, there was not enough money to accommodate the applications from Ceatech and Gay & Robinson. Ceatech, a publicly held shrimp production company, had sought $4.5 million, while private sugar grower Gay & Robinson wanted $4 million. Later, both companies cut their requests, saying that the situation had turned political.

A controversy arose when Shishido rejected Ceatech's loan application and Ceatech complained that Shishido was biased in her review. Shishido said Ceatech was a bad risk for repayment. Normally, when Shishido rejects a loan, her decision is final, but the state Board of Agriculture ignored her rejection and approved Ceatech's $2.5 million loan at a meeting last month.

The board also accepted Gay & Robinson's request for $1.8 million, but said that final approval of the loan would require an opinion from the Attorney General's Office. It was not clear exactly what opinion was needed, since the board discussed the matter in a private session in which the public was removed.

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