T&T Gov’t revives consideration to utilise 2013 land offer by Guyana
By Kurt Campbell
After spending five days in Guyana, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley returned to Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday and among his major announcements, moments after landing at the Piarco International Airport was that his government is considering utilising lands in Guyana for agricultural purposes.
The statement immediately attracted widespread reactions as it revived a 2013 land offer by the Guyana Government to investors in T&T for farming.
Through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the time, Guyana had committed to making 10,000 acres of land here available to Trinidadian farmers.
By 2014, a team of Trinidadian investors had travelled to Guyana along with that country’s Agriculture Minister at the time, Devant Maharaj to scope the agricultural lands with the hope of engaging in large scale agricultural activities here.
That was under the Kamla Persad-Bissessar government but since that time and even after a change in government in 2015 which saw Dr. Rowley being elected Prime Minister, there was no public mention of it until now. Guyana also experienced a change in government in 2015.
Dr Rowley’s visit to Guyana last week was primarily to participate in the Agri-Investment Forum and Expo which came at a time when the Caribbean Community set an ambitious target to produce more food within the national borders of its 15 member states towards a larger goal of reducing the region’s food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025.
“We don’t have acres to produce on the scale to make a significant difference and it seems that T&T should invest in the production capabilities in Guyana,” Dr Rowley said as he highlighted Guyana Southern Region, Upper Takatu – Upper Essequibo (Region Nine).
On Saturday last, Dr Rowley travelled to Lethem, Region Nine where he met with Brazilian investors and left impressed that they too can support the region’s food security goals.
During the 2014 visit, the Trinidadian delegation had also gone to Region Nine where they eyed the possibility of planting corn, soybean and fruits.
Agriculture lands are also available in the Canje Basin, Region Six and the intermediate savannah.
In the 2013 offer to Trinidad, the lands were to be leased through a process of licensing and farming was expected to pattern the Santa Fe Rice Project which was seen as the first and largest agriculture project under the Jagdeo initiative.
“If that investment is made, then the first step is for our benefits,” Dr. Rowley said on Sunday during a press conference in his home country as he drew attention to T&T’s “significant processing and refining capacity.”
“The raw material can be produced in Guyana and then it can be processed and packaged in Trinidad…that means we have to invest in fields and production in Guyana,” the T&T PM added.
At a joint press conference in Georgetown on Sunday where another MoU was signed to enhance cooperation between the two countries, President Irfaan Ali said the aim was to create ‘win-win situations’ for Guyana and T&T.