Last updated on Saturday 14 August 2021, 9:01 by Denis Chabrol
Investors in the large-scale soybean and corn plantation say trials at a ranch, located in the Upper Berbice River region, are already showing good prospects.
The investor group, which includes the owners of Guyana Stock Feed Limited, Royal Chicken, Edun Farms, SBM Wood, Dubulay Ranch and Bounty Farm Limited, as well as Brazilian company NF Agriculture have so far invested around $ 45 million. in the pilot project.
Bounty Farm Limited Deputy Managing Director David Fernandes said it was important for the team to start testing the two key inputs so that sufficient data could be collected.
“This is a project that was initiated by President Ali, so we thought it was very important to quickly do some testing that would provide us with sufficient data so that we can continue to move towards a commercial operation. We have planted 115 acres of soybeans and five acres of corn at this point. These two crops will probably be harvested by the end of September and then we will replant in November.
“At this point, we intend to plant 125 acres each of corn and soybeans. So far this has been quite interesting and exciting for us as the plants are now about 4.5 weeks old and the soybeans look very good. The corn is still very young. I would like to thank the ministry for its help and guidance in this regard, and we look forward to working with the ministry and the government as a whole to make us self-reliant and self-sufficient in this regard, as with the pandemic has hit us the last year we realized that it was imperative that Guyana move in this direction, ”he said, quoted by the government’s Department of Public Information (DPI).
Mr. Fernandes also expressed his optimism about the outcome of the ongoing trial. He added that with the support received from the government and other international partners such as FAO, cash cultivation, once started, will also show impressive production figures.
In addition to the ongoing trial, Mr. Alex Mendez, who manages operations at the Dubulay Ranch, has managed the cultivation of several varieties of corn which have been exported to the United States and used for seed and production of new varieties. The project, which has been running since 2005, is part of the global projects funded by the Stine Seed Company. Stine Seed is the largest private seed company in the world and the largest independent seed company in the United States.
Mr Mendes also explained that over the years he has been able to provide employment for a number of women from neighboring communities. He added that with the new project which is expected to go into operation soon, more job opportunities will be generated.
Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha visited Dubulay Ranch, located about 70 miles south of Georgetown along the Berbice River, to get an overview of the ongoing corn and soybean trial crop. .
The project, which is being undertaken by a group of local investors, went into operation after President Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali announced the government’s intention to be self-sufficient in producing protein for the poultry industry.
The head of state also revealed that incentives would be made available to individuals interested in helping achieve the government’s vision for the development of the sector.
Guyana currently spends almost US $ 25 million per year on protein for the poultry sector.
Since taking office in August 2020, the government has taken steps to promote the national cultivation of grains such as corn and soybeans. The government, in its 2020 emergency budget, removed the value-added tax on agricultural machinery, fertilizers, agrochemicals and pesticides, making such investments more possible.
In addition, in this year’s budget an additional $ 500 million was allocated for the development of the corn and soybean industry. These sums will be invested to ensure that the necessary infrastructure is in place to support private investment.
During today’s visit, Minister Mustapha said he was satisfied with the project so far. He also said that with access being a critical part of the success of large-scale and commercial production, infrastructure upgrades on the road to the Tacama Savannah are expected to begin shortly.
“I want to congratulate the team for what they have achieved so far. The corn and soybean pilot plots look very encouraging and I am very optimistic that this pilot project will yield exceptional results before the commercialization and large-scale production of these two very important proteins for the poultry industry. From a government perspective, we will invest $ 500 million to modernize and improve infrastructure as part of our Intermediate Savannah Development Initiative.
“To facilitate production in the Tacama savannah, we will do the 18 km road, drying areas and other facilities. As you know, access is essential when undertaking projects of this magnitude in these remote locations. I am happy to inform you that tenders are currently being issued for the roads. It should close shortly. In addition, very soon, calls for tenders will be launched for other key infrastructures in this area. As I said before, access is essential, so we thought it was better to start the road project, but overall it will be a multi-year project. The ultimate objective is first of all to become self-sufficient and to be able to produce enough to export to regional markets ”, declared Minister Mustapha.
Minister Mustapha also said that although Guyana is an emerging oil and gas producing nation, the focus is now on developing the agricultural sector.
“As a government, we believe that agriculture is the backbone of a country’s economy and we will continue to invest in the development of the sector. With the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen how vulnerable the world’s economies are.
“As a government, we have taken the necessary steps to ensure that all of our sectors are developed in a sustainable manner, thereby reducing the overall vulnerability of our economy,” said Minister Mustapha.
The government will soon embark on a joint effort that will see students at the Guyana School of Agriculture benefit from training exercises both at the Dubulay ranch and at the Tacama site.
Minister Mustapha said that with the level of technology used on the ranch, it would be beneficial for the country as a whole in the long term to expose students studying agriculture to such advanced levels of technology. He said his department has previously discussed the possibility of having students from various educational institutions to take some form of internship at the Ranch.
“We have already indicated to some investors our interest in having students from the Guyana School of Agriculture come to both locations to learn about these technologies and improve their capabilities and skills.
“This initiative will also be extended to students of the University of Guyana and other relevant agencies. When you look around and see the amount of work and the level of technology used here, I’m sure our students will be able to learn a lot. Theory is important, but the practical aspect of agriculture is also very critical to ensure overall development, ”Minister Mustapha said.
Over the next four years, the government will work with several individuals and groups to develop mega-farms with the goal of improving production and reducing the annual food import bill. Maize and soybeans are among the products targeted for development under the Ministry’s Intermediate Savannah Development Initiative.