It was Guyana’s abundant supply of a range of tropical fruit and their value-added potential that largely influenced the decision by vintner, Warren Douglas to part company with the United States and return home. Himself and his wife Tracy wasted no time in creating the Pandama Retreat and Winery, at Madewini Soesdyke/ Linden Highway.
Arguably the most popular locally made wine on the market, the Pandama brand has continually made its mark in some of the leading supermarkets and other outlets. Among visitors to the popular Pandama Retreat Pandama Wine is also the beverage of choice.
While ‘wines’ that derive from the fermentation of a range of popular fruit have historically been commonplace, Pandama has pressed modern technology into service to deliver wines from a range of fruit that include pineapple, jamoon, aunty desma, noni, cherry, malacca pear, duka, carambola and sorrel. The fruit is sourced from local farmers trading at strategic points along the Soesdyke-Linden Highway and on the West Bank, Demerara.
What keeps Pandama in business, Douglas says, is the fact that fresh fruit is available in Guyana all year round even during the rainy season. What this means is that the Douglases always have fruit in stock.
Each week Pandama produces around sixty gallons of wine, utilizing 150 pounds of fruit. Strategic stockpiling means that the Pandama Winery customary has in stock between 4,000 and 5,000 gallons of wine.
Douglas says that Pandama works with the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) to locate small farmers. Whilst creating their own farm is an option they recognized the importance of running an operation that supports the income streams of local farmers.
Douglas’ story is similar to those of other agro processors who benefit from a collaborative arrangement with the farmers that is supported by the technical expertise of the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute. The partnership, Stabroek Business understands, has resulted in the creation of a number of thriving orchards in Guyana. While it is the farmers’ efforts that are largely responsible for the accessibility of the agro processors to an abundance of fresh fruit, NAREI’s Plant Nurseries must take credit for providing the farmers with quality planting materials that result in favourable yield. To this invaluable NAREI input should be added the Institute’s role in providing extension services to the farmers.
Stabroek Business has learnt through NAREI Chief Executive Officer Dr. Oudho Homenauth, that Guyana produces about 80,000 tons of fruits annually. A significant portion of this is used by agro-processors to produce jams, jellies and condiments sold locally. Some of the by-products of the agro-processing pursuit are employed both as animal feed and as fertilizer.
The Douglases are not the only agro-processors who make a living out of Guyana’s bountiful fruit harvest. The rapidly growing number of local fruit farmers focused on entrenching their product on the local market whilst eyeing opportunities both locally and internationally have both NAREI and the farmers to thank for the fact that their businesses continue to grow.