25,000 acres of land to be leased as Guyana makes open call for agro-investors

President Dr Irfaan Ali during a tour of the massive soya bean project in Ebini, Region 10 in October 2021

With some 25,000 acres of arable land available to be leased for agricultural production, the present People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government is making an open call to not only locals but also investors from the Caribbean Community (Caricom) to come and invest.

The availability of this land was made clear by President Dr Irfaan Ali, during a press conference on Sunday in which he answered questions from the media on Guyana’s recent participation at the 33rd Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of Caricom in Belize.

“As you’re aware, we’ve already started this process with a consortium of farmers in Guyana. We’ve started the process on corn production, with the poultry producers. So, we have land that has been identified in that area,” President Ali said.

This is a reference to the 115-acre soya bean and a five-acre corn pilot project in Ebini, Upper Berbice River – a joint venture between various local and foreign investors, where harvesting only began last year. The venture is aimed at providing all raw materials for the production of livestock and poultry feed for the local sector.

The initiative is being developed by a consortium of investors that includes the owners of Guyana Stock Feed Ltd, Royal Chicken, Edun Farms, SBM Wood, Dubulay Ranch, and Bounty Farm Ltd, along with the Brazilian-owned NF Agriculture. According to Ali, his open call has its roots in an open call made during the tenure of former President Bharrat Jagdeo.

“Now, the 25,000 acres is not the end all. Because I give you the figures earlier, on how much corn will have to be produced for the region. Now Belize is producing some of that already. Suriname will also be producing some of that. So we’ve made it very clear and this is not only now. We can go back to the Jagdeo initiative on agriculture.”

“An open call was made to Caricom, that Guyana is willing to put the land asset up and the region can bring in the investment, so that we can catalyse that land in increasing food production. So this has always been the case of Guyana. And those lands are lease lands. But we are advancing. We’re not waiting.”

According to President Ali, this is also where the regional agriculture investment conference, scheduled to be hosted by Guyana from May 19 to 21, comes in. The investment conference is expected to bring persons from all over the region and facilitate intense discussions between the public and private sectors on investment opportunities.

“That is why the investment forum is coming. So we can highlight our competitive advantage, which is fresh water, arable lands and of course, we have lands in the immediate savannahs and hinterland communities, that we are now looking at.”

“For expanded agriculture and the prospect of meat production. The farmers can be Guyanese, anywhere in the region. And the farmers will come with the investment. But it will be a collaborative effort and we’ve already started, in terms of corn.” President Ali said.

Already, the Government has announced plans for Guyana to be a net exporter of soya bean in the next five years. It has been laying the groundworks for revitalising agriculture since its return to office.

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government, in its 2020 Emergency Budget, removed Value-Added Tax (VAT) on agricultural machinery, fertilisers, agrochemicals, and pesticides, making it more feasible for such investments.

Additionally, the Government has reversed land lease fees across all sectors and water charges back to 2014 rates. Last year, President Ali had said that in the next four years, Guyana, via more diversified crops, would be aiming to reduce the Caricom food import bill by 25 per cent.