A major Indian company, the D Y Patil Group is said to have begun the process of cultivating 65,000 hectares of land in the Canje Basin but there has been no information on the agreement with the government aside from a passing reference to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
Sources have told Stabroek News that an MoU with the group – an education behemoth in India which has diversified into agriculture and other areas ‒ appears to have been signed earlier this year but the details have not been publicised in Georgetown. The government here has been accused of not being upfront with the Guyanese public on a number of major investment deals.
The last reference to the D Y Patil Group’s MoU came in the form of a release from the Government Information Agency (GINA) on July 20, 2013 about Guyana’s potential as an agricultural investment hotspot for Middle East investors. In the very last paragraph of the news item it was stated that the group had “signed an MoU with the Government of Guyana for 65,000 hectares of land in Canje Basin to be used for agricultural-related projects, which could include dairy processing; rice milling and processing; fisheries and poultry; fruit and vegetables; and sugar cane production with ethanol and power.” Sources say that one of the more contentious proposed developmental works is in relation to timber. Forest products – particularly logs ‒ are in great demand in India and China.
Such large scale deals would usually be well-ventilated here and relevant agreements tabled in parliament. Checks by Stabroek News have revealed no evidence of formal documentation and the Ministry of Agriculture has not provided any information on the MoU. Stabroek News was told that the D Y Patil group has now moved beyond the MoU.
Land in the Canje Basin for biofuel and other purposes has been actively sought by investors from China, India and other places. The government here has addressed some of these proposed investments but has provided no information on others.
There are several connections between the D Y Patil Group and Guyana.
In February 2011, then President Bharrat Jagdeo received an honorary doctorate in literature from the D Y Patil University in Mumbai.
Dr Ajeenkya D Y Patil, the son of the founder of the D Y Patil Group, has also been listed as Guyana’s Honorary Consul in Mumbai. There was no announcement in Georgetown of such an appointment though the same GINA release of July 20 which referred to the MoU and the attractiveness of Guyana to Middle East investors also described Dr Patil as the Honorary Consul.
Announcements of such appointments are usually made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Both Jagdeo and Patil also have honorary doctorates from the University of Central Lancashire.
In the light of the MoU and subsequent developments, observers say it behoves the government to publicly describe its arrangements with the group including the financial details. The D Y Patil Group is mainly involved in education and runs numerous schools dedicated to various disciplines such as agribusiness management, agricultural engineering and horticulture. The group was founded by the current Chair- man’s father, Dnyandeo Yashwantrao Patil, who is also the Governor of the Indian state of Bihar.
Guyana has been looking to overseas investors to boost agriculture.
However, the various MoUs with prospective investors have been void of specifics on the financial investment and the terms.
Guyana recently signed an MoU with Trinidad and Tobago which will see land in the Canje Basin being developed by Trinidadian farmers. Just last week the land was identified along with the likely crops to be grown. However, not a single investor from the Trinidadian end has yet come forward.
Additionally the agriculture ministry has resumed its focus on the Barbados investment, Santa Fe Incorporated, which is currently preparing over 10,000 acres for rice cultivation in the Rupununi Savannahs, Region 9. While there has been some information on these investments, there has been none on the D Y Patil Group.