Malaysian firm in third attempt to grow rubber plants for planned biofuels investment

Bornion Guyana Inc (BGI), the local subsidiary of the Malaysian firm interested in producing bio-fuels here, commenced a third attempt at growing rubber plants at its shade house along the Linden/Soesdyke Highway just over three months ago after experiencing two failed attempts this year.
Stabroek News was told that BGI had various issues such as the stress caused by the transporting of the plants from abroad which resulted in the failure of the first two trials. This publication was informed that the failed attempts were of concern but the company is overcoming the challenges.
BGI will focus on ensuring that a smaller number of plants within the nursery show successful growth before further expansion. Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy told Stabroek News that prior to the completion of the nursery, the company was growing the plants in the open so there was heavy exposure to the elements.
Stabroek News visited the site recently and it was observed that there was no work ongoing. This publication was told that workers are not constantly at the shade house since it was mostly monitoring that was necessary at this point in time. The shade house housed a few rubber plants as well as tomato plants, among others.
The rubber plants were few with the largest being approximately 15 inches in height. Along the perimeter of the shade house site, domestic rubber plants were being grown. Stabroek News was told that the two variations would be grafted depending on the success of the foreign plants in the nursery.
BGI, a subsidiary of the Malaysian We Boon Ping Group of Companies, was allocated an initial 10,000 acres of land in the Canje Basin as part of a proposal to invest US$500 million in both the agricultural and forestry sectors.
Many questions arose when BGI began construction of its shade house, so far from the proposed site of the large-scale investment. Prime Minister Samuel Hinds visited the test farm located at the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) compound at Kairuni last month. The shade house was constructed in February.
Information on the company’s proposed half a billion US dollar investment has been very secretive. Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy had stated that five acres of land was allocated along the Linden/Soesdyke Highway in the NARI compound under the initial agreement. Previously, Ramsammy had not mentioned that Bornion would be utilizing land and research expertise at NARI nor had he stated that this was part of the Memorandum of Understanding signed on September 6, 2012.
BGI has expressed interest in bio-energy among other ventures including palm oil for bio-fuel. A Government Information Agency (GINA) release documenting Hind’s visit to the nursery stated that since the MOU was signed, Bornion has invested US$1 million on feasibility testing.
The deal has been criticised by the opposition for the lack of transparency. APNU shadow agriculture minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine had told Stabroek News in January that the opposition only became aware of Bornion’s intentions via a newspaper article.
He said various memoranda were being signed and the government was opening up the Canje Basin for development but no environmental impact assessments (EIAs) were being conducted. He told Stabroek News that “EIA are necessities…it can ensure the water supplied to Berbice is going to be okay, you have to be sure that you are not going to compromise sugar estates, Black Bush (Polder)…”
Dr Roopnaraine stated that the opposition was “not at all happy that these major projects are being planned in the Canje and no EIA has been done to ascertain the viability of agriculture.” He said that Guyana could not be offering up land without ensuring that the waterways which traverse the Canje Basin are protected.
According to information provided, Bornion plans to establish a state-of-the-art industrial complex by 2017 to produce value-added products based on the commercial scale cultivation of 120,000 hectares of rubber, 100,000 hectares of oil palm, 60,000 hectares of corn, and 30,000 hectares of cassava. During 2018-2020, it is envisioned that 80,000 hectares will be cultivated with acacia, rice and assorted beans.
“The 10-hectare industrial complex will include a large laboratory, several plants for processing and packaging rubber and food crops, a refinery for processing and refining palm oil and other ancillary infrastructure that will see Guyana producing and exporting a range of processed, value-added products,” BGI’s project summary says.

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