Agri Minister, Indian High Commissioner discuss aquaculture development, partnership for sugar industry
Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha and Indian High Commissioner to Guyana, Dr KJ Srinivasa, have discussed areas for collaboration to develop the agriculture sector in keeping with Government’s plans to positively transform the sector.
Among the areas which were high on the agenda were aquaculture and sugar. During the meeting, Mustapha pointed to President Dr Irfaan Ali’s most recent announcement, that Government plans to develop an aquaculture ‘masterplan’.
Mustapha, during the meeting, said, “We’ll have an aquaculture conference, bringing the aquaculture farmers together in an organised manner while concentrating our resources to ensure we develop the aquaculture sector in Guyana.
“There are a lot of people in the diaspora who’ve expressed interest in coming to invest in aquaculture. We are currently looking at lands and other things to be able to properly develop this masterplan.”
He requested the assistance of the High Commissioner to have specialists in aquaculture development come to Guyana to work with officials in the sector to build capacity and give technical support, a release from the Ministry stated.
During the meeting, Mustapha stated that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) is currently executing critical rehabilitation works to its operating estates.
“What we are doing right now is looking at critical works that we have to do in these operating estates. A lot of funds will be expended to ensure that we bring the estates to a standard where they can operate better than they are now. As it stands now, these three estates that are operating right now are operating at just between 50% to 60% capacity. We have to build them up, because over the last five years there hasn’t been any critical capital works done on them.
“During this out-of-crop period, there are a lot of works being done on the factories. The boilers are being looked at, the chains are being looked at, we are also looking to put in a new punt dump at Albion, among other things, so that we can have more efficiency,” he is quoted as saying.
Mustapha also sought an update on Government’s request for the assistance of the High Commissioner to facilitate bringing specialists to Guyana to assist with this process.
While responding to that request, High Commissioner Srinivasa said steps have already been taken to facilitate the request.
“That request is already in the advanced stage of decision-making. Because of this COVID situation, we’ve had some setbacks. Everybody is working in silos. Once the pandemic has somewhat stabilised, we’ll be able to advance with these plans. I’m keenly following up with it,” the High Commissioner is quoted as saying.
The Minister also updated the High Commissioner on the Expressions of Interest by the Indian companies looking to partner with Government to revitalise the sugar industry.
“We are working on reopening, as it stands now, in a phased stage, with Rose Hall being first. There has also been a lot of Expressions of Interest (EOI) in Skeldon. We are looking at all the Expressions and we’ll make a decision shortly. We’ll have interviews and things like that. We are going all out to reopen Rose Hall, so (that) by the first crop of 2022, hopefully we can produce sugar. We’ll also be ensuring that we concentrate on the three operating estates, to bring them back on par and back to capacity,” Mustapha said.
He further noted that the revitalisation of the Skeldon Estate would most likely be done through a Public/Private Partnership investment with companies overseas. He added that the GuySuCo Board is currently developing a business plan that would soon be presented to him, President Dr Irfaan Ali, Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, and the Minister with responsibility for Finance, Dr Ashni Singh.