Minister of State, Jospeh Harmon has stated that evidence may have to be produced to support the claim that local farmers would be denied a livelihood in light of the recent decision by the government to award a juice contract to a Suriname company instead of Tropical Orchards Products Limited (Topco), which is a subsidiary of Guyana’s own Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL).
At Post Cabinet Briefing earlier today, Harmon highlighted that since the matter has been lodged with the Bill Appeals Committee, he is certain that when these complaints are raised by the local companies during the investigation, they will be required to provide evidence that the local farmers are being negatively affected.
Last month, Guyana’s beverage giant, DDL had been overlooked as government announced that the contract for the supply and delivery of boxed juices was awarded to Caribbean International Distribution Inc (CIDI), a subsidiary of Suriname’s Rudisa Beverages and Juices Company.
This announcement was made despite DDL being the lowest bidder for the contract.
After milk was replaced as the preferred beverage to offer students along with biscuits as a snack in schools, DDL had supplied Topco juices to government’s National School Feeding programme since 2010.
In its defence, the coalition government stated that their decision to overlook DDL was guided by the National Procurement and Tender Board Administration’s recommendation that the contract should be awarded to the third highest bidder. Government further justified its decision noting that Rudisa met the requisite administrative as well as technical requirements.
Meanwhile, Opposition Member of Parliament and former Attorney General Anil Nandlall had said that while Caricom (Caribbean Community) has obligations which may allow for a level playing field for competitive companies, the benefits that a local company can offer Guyana outweighs that of a foreign company. He added that the deal sends the wrong message to local manufacturers, pointing out that other Caricom member states make provisions for their local companies to thrive.
The former Attorney General likened the government’s decision to terminate the company’s juice contract as a move against job creation, something Nandlall reminded was promised in the coalition’s 100 day plan.
Nandlall also referenced logging company Barama which recently dismissed nearly 200 employees due to the non-renewal of their licenses. The former Attorney General surmised that Government is “contributing to unemployment” in the country.