…with savannah farming
Your Eyewitness’s ears perked up when he read that several operators – the owners of Guyana Stockfeeds Inc, Royal Chicken, Edun Farms, SBM Wood, Dubulay Ranch, and Bounty Farm Ltd., along with the Brazilian-owned New Frontier Agriculture – are banding together with the Government to form a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) to produce soya and corn in our Intermediate Savannahs. Once again, the Government will be providing “infrastructural development” for the project, and has already budgeted some $500 million for it.
We’ve been trying for decades to get those savannahs to produce “stuff”, but up to now, there hasn’t been much to show after all those efforts. We can start with the PNC’s efforts from the mid-seventies, using the free labour of the Guyana National Service to produce crops: corn, soya PLUS cassava, blackeye peas, peanuts and cotton. We’ll pass over the ill-fated scam of Global Agri, when a fast talker, Stan Green, persuaded Burnham that he could transform the Kibilibiri savannahs into producing corn and soya. Billions (in today’s dollars) were spent on equipment, but Stan (the man) walked away with his commissions, and without any experience, the project was abandoned. It was transferred to the Ministry of Agri, which tried to produce the same crops, but folded up by 1978.
Then, of course, from 1976, there was the Caricom Corn and Soyabean Project, which had financial backing from regional and international funding sources. The 800ha (2000 acre) project was set in the undulating landscape of the neighbouring Eberoabo Savannahs. And we arrive at the simultaneous efforts of the GNS at nearby Kimbia – a total of almost 5000 acres by the three entities! And they all eventually failed by the time the PNC was voted out of office! Now, one difference is that all three were not only Government run – but PNC Government run. And here we find the aphorism of Rodney apropos Burnham – everything he touches turns to sh*t! – quite appropriate!
This time, we now have private operators. But one of them, the Brazilian entity New Frontier (which we’re hearing about above), in 2016 had announced it had successfully conducted trials on cultivating corn on 25 acres. It was then moving on to develop 10,000 acres of land in the Ebini savannahs. Shouldn’t this company tell us how it’s done over the past 5 years? The truth of the matter is – with all the challenges – the Intermediate Savannahs can be cultivated. We see this over the border in Brazil, where, decades ago, the Japanese were growing soya on identical types of land. The Brazilians and Colombians have successfully followed suit.
The point your Eyewitness wants to make is that we have all the information necessary for success.
Do the businesses have the will?
…with coastal mega-farms
We’ve all been educated about the cure for the threatened “Dutch Disease”: agricultural diversification and expansion. The Intermediate Savannahs’ project stated above is part of that drive, and, in fact, the PNC had dedicated a lot of their manifesto ink in this effort. They were probably trying to make up for their abysmal failures between 1970 and 1990.
But there’s also a need to diversify agriculture on our coastland, and there might be the temptation to encourage mega-farms here also. But before they do so, they should look at the experience of Trinidad. There, President Jagdeo had presented CARICOM with the eponymously named “Jagdeo Initiative” that included the offer for the other territories to lease Guyanese land for the proverbial peppercorn.
Rather than grabbing the offer, the then still oil-rich Trinidad – under PNM’s Manning government in 2008 – decided to launch 13 mega- farms in his country, with the above govt-private business arrangement.
They all failed. Why?
Yesterday, the Government started vaccinating all adults – those 18 and over for COVID-19. Since they’d started with the over-60, of whom, there are more than 70,000, it means many haven’t come forward.
And are at risk.