West Demerara businessman Naeem Aziz yesterday opened a fruit juice plant which will see around 50 people being employed by October.
And citizens were yesterday urged to invest in the economy as the administration has pledged its support to locals who have expressed confidence in setting up businesses here.
This is according to Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud, who was at the time addressing a gathering at Canal Number One on the West Bank of Demerara where businessman Aziz officially opened a fruit juice factory, Al-Aziz Splash Inc.
According to Minister Persaud, Guyana has the potential to produce vast amounts of local products where agriculture is concerned but according to him, “production has been stifled” in terms of growth and placing value-added items on the market.
He said that many persons have not adequately addressed the latter and he noted that local producers should examine this aspect of production adding, “government will put in place the enabling mechanisms”.
Persaud stated that the government, through the Agriculture Diversification Programme, is investing money to further develop the agriculture sector and he noted that one of the largest cost items in the manufacturing sector is energy. He said that the dependence on fossil fuel as a source of energy makes “us uncompetitive”.
He alluded to neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago where he noted that the country is able to import raw materials, process same and export to countries such as Guyana, while competing with other nations on the international market. Persaud stated that the government “is going after the hydro project (Amaila Falls) not only for the agro base”, but for other sectors of the economy.
He said that the government feels offended each day when opposition to the aforementioned project is conveyed so as to discredit the efforts of the authorities and he noted that Aziz and other investors have expressed confidence in Guyana, and the future. He said that initiatives such as the juice factory and its expansion plan create opportunities.
The Agriculture Minister expressed hope that others will be inspired by the investment made by Aziz and he noted that the new facility will be beneficial to farmers. He said that the government is investing close to $600M to rehabilitate the Canals Polder area, including infrastructure and the creation of added outlets since according to him the area is vulnerable to flooding.
Meantime, Aziz, who returned to Guyana from Barbados recently to invest in the project, stated that the new facility, which currently employs close to a dozen persons, will see some 50 persons being offered employment opportunities by October this year. Speaking to Stabroek News during a tour of the factory at Lot 13, Lesperance, Canal Number One, Aziz said that his love for making juices inspired him to develop ideas he had over the years.
A qualified civil engineer, Aziz said the entire operation, worth several million Guyana dollars, was set up by him in March this year, noting that he was provided with support by the authorities, particularly Go-Invest and the New Guyana Marketing Corpora-tion (New GMC).
He said that he is already eyeing the overseas market, particularly Barbados, but noted that he will follow the export regulations before being able to export later this year, after the stipulated period.
The facility, which is equipped with a well, mixers and a moulding plant to bottle the products, operates thrice-weekly based on the supply of fresh fruits, while fruit concentrate is used to fill in for shortages of fruits. The beverages: orange, grape, cherry and pineapple among other flavours are available in 1 gallon, 1.5 gallon and 20-ounce among other sizes, and the investor places much emphasis on the packaging on the products.
Aziz noted that the New GMC has come to its aid where the shortage of fruits is concerned.