Local investors to undertake massive corn and soya bean cultivation project

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Several companies have joined together to undertake a massive project that could see Guyana on the path to becoming self-sufficient in corn and soya bean over the next few years.

The owners of Guyana Stock Feed Ltd, Royal Chicken, Edun Farms, SBM Wood, Dubulay Ranch, and Bounty Farm Ltd, along with the Brazilian-owned N F Agriculture, have partnered to produce soya bean and corn for both the local and the regional markets.

The seven-member team has been aggressively engaging the relevant bodies and is expected to commence this massive project over the next few months.

Following a tour of their Timehri operations on Tuesday last, Assistant Managing Director of Bounty Farm Limited, David Fernands explained the group’s vision for the project.

During his presentation, Fernandes said that Guyana has long been touted as having the potential of being the Bread Basket of the Caribbean and that in recent years there has been a greater appreciation of the high dependence on imports for livestock feeds.

“With the onset of Covid-19, we have realized our vulnerability to global prices, supply, and freight variability. This underscored the importance of self-reliance in the area of food security. As a group, we want to be able to help transform Guyana’s food and agricultural systems, shorten the value chains nationally and regionally, become self-sufficient in commodities needed for the poultry industry, create employment, and boost rural development among other things,” Mr. Fernands said.

Fernandes also said that such a massive project would result in a substantial reduction in the cost of raw materials for livestock production while improving Guyana’s competitive advantage in the global marketplace.

With Guyana expending close to US $25 million annually on proteins for the poultry sector, government, since taking office, has taken steps to promote domestic cultivation of grains like corn and soya bean. Government, in its 2020 Emergency Budget, removed value-added tax (VAT) on agriculture machinery, fertilizers, 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.

Furthermore, in this year’s budget, an additional $500 million was allocated to develop the corn and soya bean industry. These sums will be invested to ensure the necessary infrastructure are in place to support private investment. Investors from Dubai, United Arab Emirates have also signaled their interest to cultivate corn and soya bean locally.

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha said that government is keen on reducing its spending, especially on commodities that can be produced locally. The subject Minister also said that government is ready to work with investors and provide the necessary support to ensure projects of this nature get off the ground.

“We already have an investor from Brazil who is doing corn cultivation in the Ebini, located in upper Berbice River and I am looking forward to seeing more companies coming on board. Today’s presentation was well received and I commend our local investors for signaling their interest in such a large-scale project. If we can produce the amount of corn and soya bean required to become self-sufficient in proteins for our poultry industry, those funds can be used to further develop the sector. As a government, we are also working to reduce Guyana’s food import bill and food import dependency,” Minister Mustapha said.

The subject Minister also said that government will be making the necessary resources available so that this project can commence as soon as possible, and will explore having a public/private/partnership as with an initial investment of $500 million being allocated to commence infrastructural works in areas like the Intermediate Savannahs that have been earmarked for the cultivation of corn and soya bean, and other large-scale agriculture activities like the development of mega-farms.

So far, the team has engaged several other relevant bodies like the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC), the Guyana Office for Investment (Go Invest), and other relevant stakeholders. Once given the green light, cultivation is expected to commence before the end of the year.

Presently, Guyana’s national feed consumption for the poultry industry is 113,000 metric tons annually, with broilers birds consuming approximately 100,000 metric tons of feed and layers consuming approximately 13,000 metric tons of feed annually. This feed comprises 60% Grain (Corn & Rice), which is equivalent to approximately 68000 tons, and 30% soya bean meal which is equivalent to approximately 34000 tons per year.