By Jared Liddell
NATIONAL Industrial & Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), in collaboration with Caribbean Marketing Enterprises Incorporated (CMEI), launched its US$2M Agro-Processing Centre, at Wales Estate, East Bank Demerara. The centre comes as an initiative to create a job market for the sacked sugar workers of the Wales estate, as well as promote, process and package locally-grown agricultural products.
Minister within the Ministry of Agriculture with responsibility for Rural Affairs, Valarie Patterson-Yearwood, said that since the closure of the estate in 2017, NICIL has leased lands to former sugar workers, which they use for agricultural activities. She said that this project is the perfect opportunity for those famers, since it is geared towards providing significant employment for former sugar estate workers.
“It is obvious that several of the former sugar workers who have secured lands are interested in cash crops where they plant mainly passion fruits and citrus, while some are doing cattle rearing, as they seek to continue creating employment for themselves.”
The minister noted that the decision to close the estates, beginning with the Wales Estate, was one that the government had made due to the fact that the industry was not sustainable. She said that persons were not aware that GuySuCo – the previous owners of the land that made up the Wales Estate, were in severe debt. She stated that the coalition government had to find some additional billions of dollars of bailout money to keep the sugar industry afloat. Considering the turmoil in the sugar industry, government had to also take drastic measures which included reducing the labour capacity at the various sugar estates.
She further stated that government has since embarked on a project to restructure the industry through innovation and prudent investments, this agro-processing centre, she noted, would be one of the major projects the government will roll out in order to accomplish that.
Operations at the new processing facility will include, sorting, grading, washing, chilling, drying, packing and cool-storage of several staple crops such as eddoes, cassava, sweet potato, yams, plantain and breadfruit, and a variety of local fruits.
NICIL’s Business Development Officer, Rachael Henry, said that as part of NICIL’s vision to change the way things are done in the agriculture sector and to support forward-thinking agro-processors, the organisation has had its ears on the ground as well as observing the anomalies in the value change system. NICIL has invested in advanced and quite contemporary agro-processing equipment which will be used to facilitate agro-business in the new agro-industrial path. NICIL has submitted 200 acres in the Wales Estate to the establishment of the path.
“This project represents NICIL’s vision to change as we utilise those same lands, which were once demarcated for sugarcane, to produce something else, something tangible as well, something that expresses revolutionary and transformative change for the people of Guyana.”
Henry said that as custodians to the land depository, our plan is to address the constraints that are present in the current value chain, one such value strain has been the sustainability – NICIL has made two foot prints on this constraint.
Caribbean Marketing Enterprises Incorporated Principal, Mike Elliott, said that his company, through the public-private partnership with NICIL, looks forward to the opportunity to be involved with the agriculture sector, as it is a channel to not only provide jobs for the people of Guyana, but also to market and share the diverse products Guyana has to offer.
“We are happy to bring a few different products to the market. We would certainly use the products throughout the region, products that you guys have in the country are vast, and there is a huge demand for those products, and it is our job to figure out how we, as a team, come up with the best plan to get your products to market. We’re gonna work with local and international companies to hire and create jobs to get these products to market.” Elliott said.
Source: Guyana Chronicle