The July 17 commissioning of a $17 million refrigerated container designed to provide storage for fruit and vegetables awaiting transportation to markets or to transshipment points is intended to complement existing infrastructure designed to strengthen the agriculture sector’s capacity to provide the regional market with locally grown non-traditional crops.
The commissioning of the new cold storage facility comes just weeks after New Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) General Manager Nizam Hassan told Stabroek Business that the corporation had invested $66 million in acquiring two two-tonne and two six-tonne refrigerated trucks from China to add to its sole two-tonne truck used to transport perishable farm produce.
The new Parika cold storage container is part of a larger pre-existing packaging facility secured under a $17 million bilateral agreement signed between the governments of Guyana and Venezuela. The funding agreement will see the establishment of a second cold storage facility at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri, which Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud was quoted as saying will seek to respond to the storage needs of potential exporters in and around the Timehri/Soesdyke area and in other parts of Region Ten.
A lack of adequate cold storage facilities for both storing and transporting produce from distant farming areas to locations in the city in preparation for movement to other countries has long been one of the primary impediments to maximizing export potential in the agricultural sector. While some local farmers have already developed a well-established market for fruit and vegetables in the region, post-harvest, in-transit losses have, in some cases, resulted in significantly reduced earnings and embarrassment resulting from spoilage of produce prior to arrival at overseas destinations. In the past, extensive discussions have been held at the levels of both the Ministry of Agriculture and the farming communities regarding the packaging and preservation of fruit and vegetables for export.
At the launch of the new Parika cold storage facility the minister said the project was part of a wider plan to increase the volume of non-traditional crops exported to small Caribbean territories like Antigua and Martinique. Attempts to accelerate the export of locally grown fruit and vegetables to the Caribbean are also part of a wider initiative to seek to reduce the Caribbean’s dependence on extra-regional imports, thereby reducing Caricom’s food import bill.