The recently signed Memorandum of Understanding between Guyana and Trinidad on food security aims to provide investors from Port-of-Spain with the same agricultural incentives, subsidies and exemptions from taxes and duties available to Guyanese.
Under the September 6th MoU signed by Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy and his Trinidadian counterpart Devant Maharaj, land will be leased by private investors from Trinidad “for the pursuit of agricultural production, including agro-processing, and generally in providing a facilitative environment and the necessary support to attract such investments”.
Article III b. of the MoU says that negotiation of the lease rental rates will be based on the location, size of the farm and the proposed type of enterprise.
Some Trinidadian farmers have complained that there is sufficient agricultural land in the Twin Island Republic for the food security venture there. Maharaj disputed this during a recent visit to Georgetown. He said that much of the land being referred to is in private hands. The Canje Basin has been identified as the area that the Trinidadian investors will be assigned. It is unclear if Trinidad farmers might also come here to plant.
Observers have raised queries as to why the government has not been able to attract local investors to take up large farm options here as Guyana also has a great need to cut its food import bill.
There will also be great interest in the price at which land is leased to Trinidadians. Previous deals have seen land leased to Trinidadians cheaper than Guyanese farmers pay. The Caribbean Citrus Growers Association, a Trinidadian based organisation which has been operating in Guyana since 2008 currently leases land for US$1 per acre per annum, sources say, while local farmers lease from US$5 and upwards.
At a press conference here last month, the two ministers stated that the governments will be acting in the capacity of facilitators and that there is no financial assistance to be provided under the MOU. Maharaj has stated that this is an agreement that will just facilitate Trinidadian investors in coming on board. The MOU however states that the governments of both countries are to take on the responsibility “to strengthen market performance and improve value chains, including input and output markets,” through various interventions.
While the MOU does not specify that any government is responsible for financial support it sees “cooperation by both parties on technological innovations such as supporting applied research for improved food crop varieties and animal species, sustainable intensification of agriculture and promoting appropriate equipment and best practices in farm and post-harvest uses and the transfer and dissemination of information, technology and knowledge”. The MOU also states that “each party shall use its best efforts to achieve the intent of the MOU in a timely and cost effective manner.”
The MoU does also note that both governments are expected to provide a “facilitative environment and the necessary support”. Both parties can opt out of the MOU given six months’ notice and there is no imposition of action targets.
To remain in compliance with the MOU Guyana and Trinidad agreed that a management committee will be necessary comprising three Guyanese representatives and three Trinidadians who will then select a chairman. The chairmanship of the management committee will be rotated between the parties. The function of the committee will be to monitor the implementation of the MoU.
Dr Ramsammy has also previously stated that Guyana has potentially over 8.15 million acres of land available for agriculture and currently just under 1.24 million is under cultivation.