Works underway to develop massive mega corn, soya bean farms

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Six local 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 Stockfeed Limited, Royal Chicken, Edun Farms, SBM Wood, Dubulay Ranch, and Bounty Farm Limited, 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 project over the next few months.

The group took Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha, on a guided tour of the facility on Tuesday. During the visit, the minister said the government is keen on reducing its spending, especially on commodities that can be produced locally. He said the administration 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.

“[The] presentation was well received and I commend our local investors for signalling 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.

According to Minister Mustapha, the government would be making the necessary resources available so that the project can start soon. It would also explore having a public-private partnership as with an initial investment of $500 million 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 agricultural activities like the development of mega-farms.

Meanwhile, Assistant Managing Director of Bounty Farm Limited, David Fernandes, explained the group’s vision for the project.

During his presentation, Fernandes said Guyana has long been touted as having the potential of being the breadbasket 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 realised 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,” Fernandes said.

Minister Zulfikar Mustapha and other officials during a tour of Bounty Farm Ltd’s Timehri operations (Photo: Ministry of Agriculture)

He also said such a huge 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.

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

Presently, Guyana’s national feed consumption in the poultry industry is 113,000 metric tons annually, with broiler birds consuming approximately 100,000 metric tons of feed and layers consuming approximately 13,000 metric tons of feed annually. This feed comprises 60 per cent grain (corn and rice), which is equivalent to approximately 68,000 tons, and 30 per cent soya bean meal, which is equivalent to approximately 34, 000 tons per year.

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

Further, in Budget 2021, an additional $500 million was allocated to develop the corn and soya bean industry. These sums would be invested to ensure the necessary infrastructure is in place to support private investment. Investors from Dubai, the United Arab Emirates have also signalled their interest to cultivate corn and soya bean locally. (Ministry of Agriculture press release)

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