BUSINESS AND BIG BUCKS

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ON Friday, Minister Cathy Hughes and I were travelling from the Annai airstrip to Bina Hill in the North Rupununi. As we passed a row of trees at the head of the trail, we simultaneously shouted aloud, “Jamoon!”

The trees were heavily laden with dark bunches of jamoon. They were irresistible. On our way out, through the exotic resort of an old friend, Colin Edwards, I tasted one of the tiny, dark fruits. It was succulent. I was joined by Minister Nicolette Henry, and we literally plundered the lower branches of a tree under which large patches of the fruit had dropped and were rotting on the grass.

COMMON PLIGHT
Over the decades, this has been the common plight of Guyanese farmers who have endured hardships from lack of markets and processing facilities. This is now slowly changing. There is a profitable internal market for fresh fruits with the Guyana Government alone buying yearly in excess of $2 billion in fruit juices for distribution to schoolchildren. Locally registered companies supply the boxed juices, which invariably come from imported concentrates.

Together with Ministers Holder and Gaskin, I had visited DDL’s juice-processing plant. The Tropical Orchard Products Company, “Topco,” after which the juice is named, had a limited operation and only a small number of farmers were supplying fruits to the plant. Many lacked transportation and, besides, the price was never right for their produce. They left their fruits to fall and rot. DDL had promised to help farmers and it has since injected some US$4 billion to boost fruit-juice processing, as well as to produce pasteurised milk.

BIG BUCKS
There are big bucks in large-scale cultivation of carambola, passion fruit, cherry, jamoon, guava, mango, pineapples, etc. To protect this business from suffering the fate of jamoon in Annai or guavas in the Canal Polders, there is need for storage and processing facilities. On Friday, the Guyana Chronicle reported the Caribbean Marketing Enterprises Inc. (CMEI) and the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Ltd, (NICIL), have concluded negotiations for a giant cold-storage bond at the Wales estate. Former sugar workers whom President Granger assured of plots of land for agricultural purposes, would eventually cash in on the big bucks from storage, processing and export of Guyana’s fruits and vegetables. The Caribbean alone annually imports some US$10 billion of “foreign” fruits and vegetables to feed its tourism industry.

It appears that Guyana is gearing for big exports by air as we have aviation history when a jumbo Atlas Air cargo aircraft last week landed at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA). The Boeing 747-400 which landed here with ballot papers from Canada, has a maximum take-off weight of 800,000 lbs.

NOT DOING BADLY
Businesses, some with banks as their subsidiaries, have not been doing badly in Guyana. The mega-business, Banks DIH Limited, has recorded a 7.9% increase in its 2019 third-party revenue, raking in $32.9 billion compared to $30.5 billion in 2018. Citizens Bank Guyana Inc., a 51%-owned subsidiary of Banks, registered revenue of $3.422 billion in 2019 compared with $3.160 billion the previous year. Profit after tax for the bank was $955.3 million compared to $602.3 million in 2018

The other mega-company, DDL, reported after-tax profits of $1.2 billion mid-year 2019. The group’s profit before tax for 2018 stood at $4.3 billion compared to $3.5 billion in the previous year. Its subsidiary, DEMERARA Bank Limited, has recorded a profit of $2.1 billion for the financial year which ended in September, 2019. The profit reflects an increase of 6.7 per cent over 2018. In addition, according to the bank’s audited financial results, the company recorded a gross profit of $3.3 billion.

“This is the highest dividend payment in the history of the bank,” Founder and Chairman Dr. Yesu Persaud observed.

The Trinidad-based Republic Bank Limited has recorded a profit of $5.974 billion before taxation for their financial year which ended on September 30, 2019. According to the bank’s annual report of 2019, it recorded a “satisfactory performance” which was buoyed by Guyana’s expanding business sector, competitive financial environment and expectations of economic growth.

Profit after taxation amounted to $3.84 billion representing a 22.7% increase over 2018. Surprisingly and in spite of tough laws in place to prohibit smoking in public places, the Demerara Tobacco Company (DEMTOCO) recorded profits of $1.3 billion. And this was for the first half of 2019.

The big companies and their banks are obviously thriving in Guyana, and though they expect an improved business environment, they continue to invest and to expand. One such business group which has demonstrated confidence in Guyana, is the B.K Group of Companies. During 2018-2019 it made a US$10 million investment into its quarry operations. Like fruits, Guyana has an abundance of sand, boulders and stones.

Guyana needs more enterprising entrepreneurs and progressive farmers who could make use of available opportunities by investing in business that could bring them the big bucks.
The APNU+AFC Coalition Government has restored stability and promoted confidence in Guyana. It has declared as a policy partnership among the state, business and labour, which collectively must work for a better Guyana.