$40M packaging plant for Sophia
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Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha
Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha

–to provide much-needed support to agro-processors with limited capital

THE Government of Guyana is pursuing the construction of a state-of-the-art packaging plant at the Sophia Exhibition Centre, Georgetown, according to an advertisement issued early last week.

The facility, which will be placed under the purview of the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC), is estimated to cost $40 million, with construction projected for a period of 60 days.
This was confirmed by Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, who said that even though a packaging plant already exists in Sophia, there is need for a more sophisticated, world-class facility that allows for the packaging of products fit for the export market. The new plant will, therefore, provide critical support to the packaging facility at Parika, Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara).

Minister Mustapha told the Guyana Chronicle on Friday, that the construction of a new packaging plant at Sophia will buttress the global effort of reducing food loss and wastage, as it will increase the country’s capacity to provide internationally marketable packaging for local agro-processed products.

It has been highlighted that even though hunger affects close to 700 million people annually, an estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of food are dumped each year. This means that the global wastage and loss of food account for approximately 30 per cent of all food production.

With improved packaging, more of Guyana’s products can be exported

When the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) assumed office in August 2020, it had committed to returning Guyana to its former glory as the bread-basket of the Caribbean. In doing so, the Dr. Irfaan Ali-led administration had committed to the comprehensive development of the agro-processing industry.

In keeping with its commitment, the government has been investing heavily in the development of value-added products, from the processing of raw materials to the packaging of the finished product.

It was only this year that the government allocated in excess of $800 million for the establishment of six agro-processing facilities across the country.
These facilities are slated to be established particularly in farming communities, notably Aranaputa and St. Ignatius in Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo); Black Bush Polder in Region Six (East Berbice- Corentyne) and Leguan in Region Three.

Minister Mustapha has also committed to ensuring such facilities are replicated in Regions Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) and Ten (Upper Demerara-Upper Berbice).
The government’s efforts also seem to be attracting notable support from members of the private sector.

As a matter of fact, it was only on Friday that Caribbean International Distributors Incorporated, a member of the Rudisa Group of Companies, signalled its intention to build a whopping US$35 million ($7.3 billion) agro-processing facility at Enmore, on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD).

Mustapha said that that particular facility will accommodate the processing and packaging of a range of products such as pasteurised milk, natural fruit juices and water, as well as a myriad of bread-like products including hamburger buns, cookies, biscuits, croissants, bagels and donuts.

SUPPORTING AGRO-PROCESSORS
In the meantime, the Sophia Packaging Plant will be erected to support agro-processors who do not have the capacity to properly package their products for export.
In addition to creating thousands of jobs and providing markets for local farmers, Mustapha said that the investments in agro-processing are intended to pave the way for Guyana to become a major food supplier to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

With immediate focus, the government is looking to tap into at least 15 per cent of the regional food import bill, which ranges between US$5 billion and US$8 billion.
Consequently, the government is partnering with a group of local investors to establish a massive corn and soya bean farm, with the aim of converting these crops into proteins to supply the livestock industry.

As it is, the feed that Guyana uses comprises 60 per cent grain (corn and rice) and 30 per cent soya bean.
And, with the country’s annual feed consumption being at 113,000 tonnes, this particular value-added investment is expected to significantly reduce Guyana’s dependence on the importation of feed material.

Once all goes well with the commercial farm, Guyana could possibly begin to export feed – a value-added product – to the CARICOM market.
Currently, the $45 million trial farm is showing positive results. During a visit on Friday, Minister Mustapha said that harvest of the 250-acre trial farm, located at Dubulay Ranch along the Berbice River, will commence in September.

In addition to improving the country’s processing and packaging capabilities, much effort will be placed on producing products of a superior quality and standard.
To this end, the Agriculture Ministry will also be investing in the purchase of critical equipment for the creation of “mini labs” to test the products being processed and packaged in Guyana.
Soon after taking office, President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, had said that even though Guyana is gearing to become a major oil producer, the country will not make the mistake of being reliant on the Oil-and-Gas Sector alone.

The Head of State has often underscored the importance and potential of Guyana’s agriculture industry, especially as it relates to agro-processing and investing in value-added.
Dr. Ali had also recognised that investments in value-added products depend heavily on Guyana’s ability to produce affordable energy. This has also influenced the government’s push for cheap and renewable energy production.

As part of its plan to transform Guyana into a powerhouse, the government has embarked on a mission to cut the cost of power generation by at least 50 per cent, using an energy mix, which will see the creation of projects that will utilise various sources of alternative energy. The Amalia Hydropower project and the pioneer Gas-to-Shore project are all examples of this effort.

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