DDL plugs $4B into Topco’s expansion project

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The expanded plant which is expected to be commissioned in mid-2020 will also be geared to produce pasteurised milk, initially from reconstituted milk and eventually from milk supplied by local dairy farmers

EVEN with Guyana set to reap tremendous benefit from its nascent oil and gas sector, Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) Executive Chairman, Komal Samaroo, is of the strong view that the agriculture sector must be developed to include value-added processing of the nation’s fruits and vegetables into pulp and juices, and eventually milk supplied by local dairy farmers, for local consumption and export.

To this end he explained DDL’s decision to invest some four billion Guyana dollars into its Tropical Orchard Products Company (TOPCO) expansion project which is designed to process and package increased volumes of existing products including cherry, passion fruit, carambola and guava juices as well as new ones including mango, pineapple, citrus and vegetable juices. The expanded plant, which is expected to be commissioned in mid-2020, will also be geared to produce pasteurised milk, initially from reconstituted milk and eventually from milk supplied by local dairy farmers.

Discussions on the expansion project were held on Tuesday with representatives of several relevant government ministries and agencies including the Ministries of Agriculture, Finance and Education along with the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA), the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC), the National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI), the University of Guyana (UG), the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) and the Carnegie School of Home Economics. Representatives of these agencies were brought up to date on the progress being made with the project through a detailed presentation by the plant manager, Rebecca Rampher.

TOPCO will require a combined total of almost two million pounds of cherries, carambola, guava and passion fruit in 2020, up from the 357,281 pounds supplied so far for 2019, an increase of 444 per cent. The discussions focused on the role all stakeholders must play to ensure the success of the project and the benefits to be accrued.

Farmers will benefit from this project through a guarantee that their supply of fruits to TOPCO is secure, with stability of prices in spite of market demand/supply conditions as well as the potential to increase their cultivation of target fruits (cherry, guava, passion fruit, carambola) to increase supply to TOPCO as well as supply additional fruits and vegetables. Another benefit to farmers will be the ability to collaborate with a network of technical and financial agriculture-support agencies, as part of the holistic market-driven approach to developing partnerships with local fruits and dairy farmers.

Tuesday’s meeting provided for an exchange of views and information on current programs and projects taking place in the agriculture sector and how strategies for the success of the TOPCO expansion might fit into those projects. The necessary assistance that both farmers and some of the agencies will need to effectively execute their responsibilities was also discussed.

The main components of the expansion project are the installation of a one tonne per hour fruit processing line and of a one litre Tetra Pak Juice and Milk packaging line. This equipment is already in Guyana and the visitors were able to get an on-the-spot look on work currently taking place on the project. Later this week farmers that currently supply TOPCO will tour the project as well as engage in discussions with TOPCO officials about the company’s future requirements and the proposed arrangements and conditions for the guaranteed purchase of their fruits.

Next week, a meeting with TOPCO and the Ministry of Agriculture’s Planning Unit will be held to further advance the collaborative efforts on this project.

The DDL team participating in Tuesday’s meeting was headed by Executive Chairman, Komal Samaroo, and included Production Director, Shaun Caleb; TOPCO Plant Manager, Rebecca Rampher; DDL’s Project Engineer, Joshua Gobin and Government Affairs Consultant, Wesley Kirton.