$8M in cereal donated to hurricane ravaged islands

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The Morning Glory Rice Cereal Plant, located at Anna Regina on the Essequibo Coast, has pledged 20,000 boxes of cereal which amounts to $8M to relief efforts for hurricane-affected countries.

According to a release from the Ministry of the Presidency, the plant is currently owned by the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST), as it was constructed through monies received via a warrant to the IAST from the former Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce.  However, the equipment for the plant was procured earlier this year and was tested exhaustively by IAST’s technical staff in China before being shipped to Guyana.

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon on Wednesday toured the facility and noted that the business venture is one the rest of Guyana can learn from as it utilises rice, both whole and broken, to manufacture a high quality, nutritious rice cereal.

Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon and Director of the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST), Professor Suresh Narine exchanges a handshake after the announcement of the donation to the hurricane-affected islands.

According to the release, Minister Harmon said that he was impressed by what has been achieved but is also pleased that one of Guyana’s and the region’s main agricultural products; rice, is being used for value-added production.

“I believe that the mandate of the IAST should be to do things like this, bring it to a certain level and then move on because really it is a Science based organisation and we invent. We see what we can actually do with the products, which we produce in Guyana and to add value to them. I think this is an excellent way of adding value to a product that is sold just on the market in its raw stage. I am impressed and I think there is great capacity to take other raw materials produced by our farmers and take it to the next level and capture markets. I think other parts of Guyana can benefit from this,” Minister Harmon was quoted as saying in the release.

Minister Harmon noted that the Government has received requests for further funding from the IAST and as the Budget 2018 cycle commences, it was prudent for Government to witness what benefits the investment would have for the people in the community and region. Based on his observations, Minister Harmon said that the plant can only be poised for greater successes in the coming days with the support from the administration.

“We have come to a stage where it is in production and as you quite rightly said we can start to show a profit. The other thing is that you are providing employment for the people in Region Two and it is a good model, where you actually take a science-based produce and then create a business opportunity and allow the community to benefit from it. I think this is excellent work and I believe that this is what needs to be understood. When we invest this is what we should get. Guyanese should be proud to know that this is what is being produced,” the Minister of State told the Director of IAST, Professor Suresh Narine.

Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon pays keen attention to Dr. Narine as he explains the processes associated with the manufacturing of the rice cereal

Ultimately, the IAST has recommended that once the plant is fully operational and is generating a cash flow, it should be divested as a private sector entity or through a public-private partnership.

Divesting the plant, the IAST believes will allow the Government to recoup its original investment at an appropriate premium so that this capital can be used to develop other such value-added processes in other communities. Currently, there are 26 persons employed at the plant, 16 from the surrounding communities and 10 technical staff from the IAST.

The plant is focused on the production of breakfast cereals and nutrition bars. The main ingredient used is rice, with other major ingredients being rice bran, sugar, molasses and peanuts, which are procured in the region.

Additionally, the IAST has been working with the National School Feeding Program operated by the Ministry of Education in a pilot project, to test the acceptance of the cereals by several schools on the Essequibo Coast.

Professor Narine said that there has been an enthusiastic response by the students to the product, which is a favourite among the several products being piloted. Therefore, the National School Feeding Program is expected to provide an institutional market for uptake of some of the facility’s production in the near term.

Further, the IAST has engaged with the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), which has made a preliminary indication of its intention to purchase the cereal for its troops. The IAST continues to produce the product at a pilot scale and to solicit other markets so that the plant’s produce can find markets in the early stages of operation. The Institute is also in dialogue with regional conglomerate, Massy Stores Limited.  The intent is to secure enough markets ahead of the production so that the plant can operate at least one shift profitably.

On the environmental front, the plant has been designed to only generate minimum organic waste, related to over-production during operation.  This waste is edible since it is breakfast cereal and will be utilised in collaboration with ruminant farmers in the Region. The process does require rice to be milled into flour. The facility in which the milling will be conducted will be noise-insulated, to further reduce any potential impact of noise. There is no air pollution generated by the plant.

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