Nothing wrong with MMA-ADA Chair’s 10,000 acres of land – Agriculture Minister
– says Chairman has always owned large tracts of land
Kelvin Saul, the Chairman of the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary-Agricultural Development Authority (MMA-ADA), has been prominently featured in the press owing to his company’s acquisition of 10,000 acres of land. According to his subject Minister, however, there is nothing wrong with owning such a large amount of land.
When contacted by this publication, Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder noted that there is nothing “sinister” about the situation. According to Holder, while Sealy is a large landowner, this was before he became a member of the MMA-ADA Board of Directors.
“First of all, he’s on the Board of the MMA because many people on the Board really should come from the MMA, Region Five area. And Saul himself had land for years. On that merit, he came on the Board years ago.”
“In terms of this situation, he had applied at Forestry for 10,000 acres forestry lease way up the Mahaica river in the intermediate area. It’s not rice-land or anything of the sort. Not part of the MMA system. Apparently, he applied to covert it, because he wanted to do agriculture.”
Concern had been raised that while Sealy would have benefitted from thousands of acres of land, farmers are waiting to get their land. Holder said, however, that due to the location of the land, it would not be considered viable for farming crops such as rice.
“He got permission from the Forestry Commission because he still had a forestry lease and applied to the MMA seeking permission. And MMA gave permission. I don’t see anything sinister about it. You think any farmer will want to have land in a white sand area, up to the Mahaica river?”
The documents detailing the transaction was first released to the public earlier this month and it had shown that Sealy had over 10,000 acres of land, through a company called Mc Agriculture Trading and Investment Services (MATIS). Questions were then raised in another section of the media about a potential conflict of interest.
In his response to the issue, Saul had said that in August 2014 himself and three other persons registered under the name Mc Agriculture Trading and Investment Services (MATIS) were granted a Forestry Permission SFP DEM 21/14 from the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC).
The SFP DEM 21/14 is a block of approximately 10,609 acres of state lands lying on either side of Captain Creek in Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice).
“This land was essentially Forest Land in the Hinterland and Intermediate Savannahs and MATIS focused on husbandry and harvesting of forestry products with charcoal production through systematic and sustained tree felling and land clearing. In January 2016 (MATIS) took a conscious decision to diversify into other related agricultural activities (Crops). The conversion from Forestry to Crops required the intervention/permission of the MMA-ADA and to this end, an application was submitted to the MMA in January 2016 to lease the said block of land for agricultural purposes,” Saul said in his defence.
He claimed that subsequently, the GFC which had granted the SFP in 2014, informed the Agriculture Ministry and the MMA-ADA on August 8, 2019, that it had no objection to the conversion and to the granting of a lease for the said land to MATIS by the MMA-ADA.
“I recused myself from the MMA-ADA discussions in 2016 on the conversion and in any event, I was not a member of that Committee that deliberated, nor was I the Chairman of MMA-ADA at the time. The MMA-ADA subsequently approved the conversion,” he claimed.