The National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) is spearheading the cultivation of 25,000 tomato seedlings which will be allocated to meet the production needs of the Pakaraima Flavours Sundried Tomato Project of Region Eight. When matured, the seedlings are expected to produce approximately 50,000 pounds of tomatoes, NAREI Chief Executive Officer Dr. Oudho Homenauth says adding that this is the first time that the Institute will be venturing into such large-scale production of any type of seedling.
The project was launched in 2017 collaboratively with the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST), and the Ministries of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, and Social Protection. According to Dr. Homenauth, the initiative coincides with government’s green agriculture agenda.
The primary purpose of the initiative is to help transform the economies of the hinterland involved. With processing adding significant value to the seedlings, the project adds value to the crop being produced, resulting in farmers realizing a high return on their investment.
The farmers have witnessed the transformation of their efforts as manifested in two recently unveiled products, Flavoured Ketchup and Flavoured Salad Dressing, both manufactured under the Paramakatoi brand. The products are processed IAST and are available on shelves in the Guyana Marketing Corporation’s Guyana Shop and several leading local supermarkets. The taste, packaging and price of the products are comparable to other established competing brands, says Andrew Xavier, Manager of Bounty Supermarket. He noted that the two products are available in all Bounty Supermarkets countrywide.
“Our supermarket is supportive of local brands…We usually assist some of our suppliers to improve their products, however, they presented us with a premium product…They went the extra mile in ensuring the products are attractive and competitive,” Xavier added.
The Flavoured Ketchup is packaged in a 360ml bottle and retailed for $456, VAT inclusive while the Flavoured Salad Dressing is also packaged in a 360ml bottle and retailed at $683 VAT inclusive.
Xavier related that since Bounty Supermarket afforded the products shelf space in January this year, the company has sold more than 100 bottles of salad dressings and in excess of 230 bottles of ketchup.
While the farmers had originally agreed to accept $20 per pound for tomatoes they are receiving significantly more on account of NAREI foregoing its 10 percent share of profit. Homenauth says that NAREI may also forego its share of the profits this year in order to ensure that the farmers continue to benefit from the project.
According to Dr. Homenauth, the project has shown its growth potential. As such, NAREI is investing in human and infrastructure development. NAREI has trained more than thirty farmers from various Amerindian communities in tomato production and harvesting. Farmers with lands already prepared for cultivation have received seedlings from NAREI free of cost. The agency says it will be distributing the seedlings in tranches throughout the year.
He enlightened that NAREI is currently conducting research to ascertain other varieties of tomato used to make ketchup that could withstand conditions in the hinterland. This is to reduce dependency on one particular variety. The project is currently utilizing the Mongal variety of tomato which grows well in the hinterland. And, the institute will be constructing a nursery to provide farmers with tomato and other cash crop seedlings.