By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – A team of Trinidadian investors are currently in
Guyana along with that Country’s Agriculture Minister Devant Maharaj, scoping agricultural lands with the hope of engaging in large scale agricultural activities here.
This visit is in keeping with the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which was signed in 2013 between the Governments of Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago which addresses the need to improve food security and reduce the food import bill of the two countries.
Representatives from both countries met yesterday, including Maharaj and Guyana’s Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy.
Reporting on the meeting today, Dr. Ramsammy said another positive step has been taken in advancing the 2013 MOU which will result in proposals for possible investment.
Meanwhile, Maharaj described the ongoing discussions as fruitful; adding that the Trinidadian investors are impressed with the potential of this venture.
“Many thought that when we first floated this idea, many years ago, it would remain a pie in the sky goal, not to be achieved… we have already in Guyana Trinidad and Tobago Citrus Growers Association with 1000 acres allocated to them of which 200 acres are in cultivation,” he added.
The Trinidad Minister said this is a successful model that the current investors can look at with plans to expand and set up a pulping and juicing facility in Guyana.
Among the commodities farmers will cultivate in Guyana, with indirect effects of reducing the food import bill of Trinidad, are corn, soybean and fruits.
Minister Ramsammy clarified that the lands will be leased to the Trinidadian investors and the project will pattern the Santa Fe Rice Project in Region 9, which can be considered the first and largest agriculture project under the Jagdeo initiative.
He said depending on the crop to be grown, the soil type will be different but currently investors are scoping lands in the Canje Basin, Region Six and the intermediate savannah.
Dr. Ramsammy assured local farmers that there will be no competition in current areas of agriculture but explained that the project will create new areas and introduce mechanized farming.
He said there are limits to the lands that will be leased; adding that “We are not willing to lease a large amount that will just sit there but we are willing to lease a reasonable amount to do farming and then if necessary they can apply for more which we will look at with a positive attitude.”
When the Trinidadian government undertook to mobilize its private sector to come to Guyana and make use of the land provided as it was partly intended to produce crops for products which that country at present imports from outside the Caribbean, it was met with rejection back home. To this end, Maharaj said “sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity is a danger to the world… those statements that emanated came from farmers with political affiliations… using their substantial agriculture position attempted to launch political volleys without understanding the full scope of what we are doing.”
The Trinidad Minister described the venture as a “win – win” situation for both countries; explaining that investors with the finance and technology who have no lands in Trinidad to do large scale farming can turn to Guyana without affecting local formers and improve infrastructure and create employment.