Brazil officials due here January for talks with gov’t on large scale agri projects

Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin

What is widely felt to have been inexplicable sloth on the part of successive political administrations in taking advantage of the potential for deeper bilateral economic and trade cooperation with neighbouring Brazil could be at an end if the recent pronouncement here in Georgetown of a likely imminent and significant investment-related move here by South America’s largest country materializes.

 Last week, Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Office for Investment (Go-Invest) Owen Verwey told Stabroek Business that arising out of a visit to Brazil in April this year by a multi-sectoral team of government officials the Government of Guyana is anticipating two separate visits here by Brazilian officials that is expected to yield a formal proposal for a large-scale investment in an agricultural project here.

 Verwey provided no details of the likely investment though he said that the visits are expected to take place by the end of next month.

Unrealized prospects for cooperation between Guyana and Brazil in the field of agriculture including the potential for large-scale Brazilian investment in land acquisition for farming in Guyana has long been the subject of political discourse here and the announcement by Verwey regarding the scheduled January visit here by Brazilian officials is likely to be monitored closely in order the determine its outcomes.

The announcement by the Go-Invest CEO came almost simultaneously with the disclosure arising out of President David Granger’s visit to Brazil earlier this month that the country’s national oil company Petrobras has an interest in playing a role in the development of Guyana’s oil and gas sector. While as yet providing no specific details regarding Brazil’s specific envisaged role in the local oil sector.

 The strategic significance of a substantive role for Brazil, the continent’s economic and military powerhouse, in Guyana’s oil and gas sector will not be lost to Venezuela given that country’s protracted and still unresolved territorial claim against Guyana. 

The April visit to Brazil by a 12-member team of local state officials, led by Business Minister Dominic Gaskin and including officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Guyana Office for Investment (Go-Invest) and the Guyana Lands & Survey Department had been mandated to discuss issues relating to access by potential Brazilian businesses to acquiring lands of large scale agricultural operations here including procedural information on the acquisition of those lands as well as likely bilateral cooperation between the two countries that would allow Guyana to benefit from technical support from Brazil in the sector.

When the Guyana delegation visited Brazil in April it secured an opportunity to visit farms in the Boa Vista area and according to reports emanating from the visit the main interest of the local team was in observing farming methods there in relation to the cultivation of corn, soybean and rice as well as issues relating to infrastructure associated with such large-scale agricultural projects. Reports emanating from the visit also alluded to discussions with the Land Institute of Roraima State on land utilization.

 Over the years little has come out of the considerable lip service that has been paid to the potential for the creation of a successful regime of trade cooperation between Guyana and the Roraima State including the potential for cross-border trade in commodities including soya bean and fertilizer. Simultaneously, the idea of Brazilian investors in the agricultural sector securing access to farm lands here under a land leasing arrangement with the Government of Guyana has also been mooted.

Last week, Verwey told Stabroek Business that the team of January visitors will comprise Brazilian Government and State Government officials and that the talks are expected to take place with local government functionaries.

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