Guyana is far away from paper production, but that has not stopped the Agriculture Ministry from looking ahead at managing the future intellectual property rights of established germplasm through a US$100 million investment with China Paper.
Minister of Agriculture Dr Leslie Ramsammy told Stabroek News that the Memorandum of Under-standing (MOU) with China Paper is the first step in establishing a nursery that will produce permanent plants with independent heredity.
He said that the MOU is in its beginning stages, with a preliminary agreement to award the Chinese paper company 10,000 acres of land in the intermediate savannahs to grow trees for paper production.
Dr Ramsammy told Stabroek News that the company is yet to hire surveyors to assess the condition of the land. He noted, however, that it was decided that while the 10,000 acres were being assessed, a nursery could be established to commence the growing of the plants that will ultimately be used in paper production.
Ramsammy stated that presently China Paper was still negotiating with the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission as well as private contractors to conduct evaluations of the 10,000 acres. He said that once that was finished China Paper would be responsible for a proposal and a formal lease of the land would be established.
Ramsammy could not give a definitive answer when Stabroek News asked when the MOU was originally signed. He did, however, state that he met with a China Paper regional representative in March to outline how the partnership will proceed. He said that paper production is far off and that it would take anywhere from 18 months to three years before production. He did state that China Paper was also interested in the production of palm oil as well as rubber.
Ramsammy told Stabroek News that the variety of interests of China Paper meant that establishing nurseries on Guyanese land would ensure that the Guyana could then independently maintain the germplasm.
He said that China Paper was investing to establish nurseries and to survey the land and the ministry was providing assistance if necessary, but all the financial responsibility was on the company itself. He told Stabroek News that China Paper would need to work not only with the ministry but also with the Environmental Protection Agency to produce an En-vironmental Manage-ment Plan. China Paper will also be required to work with the Guyana Forestry Commission to establish a site for a potential nursery.
Ramsammy also said that under the recently signed MOUs, the nurseries being built would all remain the property of Guyana once the companies moved on to their acquired lands in the intermediate savannahs and the Canje Basin.
In February, Bornion Guyana Incorporated (BGI) completed the construction of a shade house along the Linden/Soesdyke Highway to act as a nursery for rubber plants. BGI, a subsidiary of the Malaysian Wee Boon Ping Group of Companies, was allocated an initial 10,000 acres of land in the Canje basin as part of a proposal to invest US$500 million in the agricultural and forestry sectors.
Meanwhile, members of the opposition have called on the government to be more transparent in providing information to the public on the various MOUs being signed. APNU’s Shadow Agriculture Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine had previously said that he was made aware of the Bornion investment through a Stabroek News article.
Roopnaraine had called the US$500 million investment ambitious, while noting the need for full disclosure of the company’s intentions and project plan. He said that it was not satisfactory to rely on newspapers to gather details of such projects and that the government has an obligation to properly relay information. Prior to the reportage in the Stabroek News, there had been no information from the government on the details of MOUs clinched with BGI, China Paper of China and DY Patil of India. In addition, apart from a release from the Government Information Agency (GINA) in April 2012 reporting on the visit of Wee Boon Ping Group officials, there has been no word from the government on this deal either.