Only part of Parika pack house leased – GMC

The New Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) says that only a part of the $89M Parika pack house has been leased to an investor.

In a statement yesterday following an article in the last Sunday Stabroek, the GMC said the leasing of part of the facility “will bring greater opportunities to rural riverain farmers in Regions 2 and 3 and fits clearly into the Grow More Food campaign.” It said that the investor has met with many farmers in the area who welcome this type of investment at the facility and at the Parika area. This newspaper had reported that the underutilized $89M Parika pack house had been leased out to an investor and is currently being modified to process cassava. The cost of the modifications is estimated at $4.6M and is being done by Sante Fe, which the Ministry of Agriculture described as “a large scale integrated farm project by large investors out of Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago to promote economic activities in Guyana, particularly within Region 9.”

In a statement last week responding to questions from Stabroek News, the Ministry of Agriculture said that the cost will be deducted from the lease agreement that another investor has with the GMC. This investor was not identified and when asked, a ministry official said that they could not disclose this information in keeping with a clause in the agreement signed with the investor.

The GMC statement yesterday said that the writer of the article was “well-informed” that only a part of the Parika pack house was leased and accused the writer of being “mischievous by wanting to create the impression that the entire facility has been leased”.

Stabroek News Editor-in-Chief Anand Persaud said that this claim by the GMC is false as when follow-up questions were asked after the statement to Stabroek News by the Agriculture Ministry, Farmers Relations Specialist in the Ministry, Parmanand Persaud repeatedly stressed that they could not disclose more information in keeping with a clause in the agreement signed with the investor. He also declined to disclose the name of the investor citing the same clause.

The GMC said yesterday that farmers and exporters still have full access to the facility for the preparation for fresh produce for export. “The leasing of part of the facility does not affect any part of the regular operations,” it said, repeating the erroneous claim that “this was made very clear to the writer.”

The Parika pack house was deeply embedded in the Ministry of Agriculture’s ‘Grow More Food’ campaign and when it was opened in 2008, it was said that it could prepare and package an estimated 40 000 pounds of produce for export in a 24-hour period. However it was not being used often.

In its statement, the ministry had said that when the modifications are completed, the peeling, washing and vacuum sealing of cassava ‘logs’ will be done as well as the peeling and drying of cassava into cassava chips which then will be converted into cassava flour. It said that markets currently exist for this product. The markets were not identified. In a series done by Stabroek News on the ‘Grow More Food’ campaign, a number of farmers from the Parika, Ruby and Naamryck area told this newspaper that they do not use the facility, which was meant to facilitate their entry into the export business and was hailed by Agriculture Minister, Robert Persaud as opening “tremendous opportunities” to them.

Persaud has said that all produce would be processed at the facility free of cost to farmers and exporters.

However, for every pound of produce processed, he had explained, the ministry will incur a $4 processing cost. He had said that the fact that the ministry will not pass on the processing cost to farmers and exporters reflects its seriousness in investing so that farmers would be given the space, incentive and support they need. He further encouraged all farmers to “take full advantage” of the facility.

The Parika pack house is the second of its kind with the first one at Sophia opened in 2001. Work on the infrastructure of the Parika facility commenced in December 2006 and the structure was completed in April, 2008. The ministry has said that for 2009, 2,031 tonnes of fresh produce was prepared for export at the Parika and Sophia packaging facilities. The ministry said that the Sophia pack house is not expected to be modified at this time.

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