Malaysian company begins first phase of US$500M investment

– rubber, oil palm and soya among crops to be grown

A Malaysian company has begun the first phase of what it envisions will eventually be a US$500 million investment in Guyana’s agricultural and forestry sectors covering oil palm, rubber and soya, among other crops.

Minister of Agriculture Dr Leslie Ramsammy told Stabroek News that Bornion Guyana Inc (BGI) has been allocated 10,000 acres in the Canje basin to plant rubber. The company has already started its nursery for the rubber plants, he said. BGI is a subsidiary of the Wee Boon Ping Group of Companies

 Datuk Wee Kok Tiong
Datuk Wee Kok Tiong

which has been described as Malaysia’s largest multifaceted company. In a visit here in 2012, the company had signalled its interest in partnering with Guyana on a sustainable operation in the forestry sector and its chairman Datuk Wee Kok Tiong paid a courtesy call on President Donald Ramotar.

According to information provided, the company plans to establish a state-of-the-art industrial complex by 2017 to produce value-added products based on the commercial scale cultivation of 120,000 hectares of rubber, 100,000 hectares of oil palm, 60,000 hectares of corn, and 30,000 hectares of cassava. During 2018-2020, it is envisioned that 80,000 hectares will be cultivated with acacia, rice and assorted beans.

“The 10-hectare industrial complex will include a large laboratory, several plants for processing and packaging rubber and food crops, a refinery for processing and refining palm oil and other ancillary infrastructure that will see Guyana producing and exporting a range of processed, value-added products,” BGI’s project summary says.

It says that in setting up the complex, full use will be made of green energy sources. “Another major item in the planned investment is the construction of a pier with warehouse and refrigeration facilities on left bank Corentyne River to ensure timely movement of large volumes of goods being exported,” it says.

The company envisages that up to 5,000 people will be employed in nurseries, tending operations in plantations, food processing in factories, rubber and palm oil processing, in support services, and in research. BGI says that it has eyed the large number of unskilled women in Regions Five, Six and Ten whom it can transform into skilled, highly-paid workers in just six months, through local and overseas training.

The company said that it will use its vast international networks to guarantee markets for its products while keeping an eye on supporting local and regional (Caricom based) industries engaged in the production of consumer goods such as ghee, margarine, cereal and ice cream, and in the production of stock feed and bio-fuels.

Furthermore, it said that it is keen on partnerships with local businesses and agencies. “BGI will explore setting up new local industries in partnership with local businesses. BGI will negotiate with local farmers countrywide for purchases of corn, cassava, and beans and guaranteeing purchases of their products while providing technical support in consultation with local agronomists. Finally, BGI will tap the expertise of a large number of experts in the fields of agronomy, food processing and forestry within its international network, to develop research capacity at National Agricultural Research Institute, the Institute of Applied Science and Technology and the University of Guyana,” it says.

The company said that in giving effect to this investment, BGI will contribute to the transformation and diversification of the local agricultural and forestry sectors.

The project summary says that BGI shares the vision that Guyana will emerge as the bread-basket of the Caribbean by 2020. The company says that it plans to invest US$500 million in the agricultural and forestry sectors respectively over the next five years to develop a total of 400,000 hectares of land on the coastal plain, preferably in Region Six, due to plans for a pier and warehouse facilities on the left bank of the Corentyne River, and also in the intermediate savannahs in Regions Six and Ten.

The company said that it is excited about the investment opportunities in Guyana and finds explicit support in the 2011 Manifesto of the ruling People’s Progressive Party.

It says that the agricultural and afforestation projects planned by BGI are fully compatible with Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy and would add immediate value to local carbon based objectives and goals under REDD+.

“BGI is particularly enthused by the fact that in utilizing soils on the coastland and in the intermediate savannahs, absolutely no deforestation is contemplated. In fact, oil palm and rubber cultivation respectively will lead to an increase in the vegetative mass and related carbon capture scenarios through the planned afforestation of more than 220,000 hectares, most of it in the intermediate savannahs,” it says.

BGI was incorporated locally and said that it has identified suitable land within the Canje Basin which has been confirmed unencumbered and available for development by the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC). “This area is suitable for the cultivation of a range of crops including those which the company has expertise and experience in producing and marketing. The vast international networks and existing (guaranteed) markets which the company has developed will be a major advantage,” it says.

It said that the overseas markets will include Brazil, Venezuela, the Caribbean, North America, Europe and Asia. Among the crops it plans to begin growing in Region Six are oil palm, rubber trees, cassava, sweet corn, soya, rice, etc. The company will also be looking at livestock and fish farming introducing new species and technologies.

“BGI has recognized the need for technology transfer in Guyana and has the experience and expertise to facilitate training of local Guyanese to transfer the level of technology currently used in other parts of the world. The company will be a leader in the introduction and use of new technologies and techniques in agriculture, forestry and related fields. BGI will adhere to international standards, rules and regulations and set and maintain high levels of social and corporate responsibilities,” it says.

At the time of the company’s visit in 2012, the Government Information Agency (GINA) reported that after starting off as a logging company in 1976, Wee Boon Ping Group of Companies has since diversified operations into reforestation as part of efforts to promote sustainable management of forestry practices bioscience, property development and construction among other ventures.

GINA had reported that the group owns 109,000 hectares (269,230 acres) of virgin forest land, approximately two times the size of Singapore and, one of the largest rubber plantations in the world. Up to that time, four million rubber trees had been planted on 11,000 hectares with a target of 12 million trees on 35,000 hectares.

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