Guyana’s potato fries import bill around $650 million

Sterling Products initiative on hold - Ramsay Ali

After Sterling Products (SPL) had launched its packaged Plantain Fries at the April 2018 UNCAPPED event at the Sophia Auditorium it had – or at least so it seemed – appeared that this would be the latest really profound statement for the local agro-processing industry. At the time it was envisaged that plantains would gradually replace potato fries in the various fast food establishments and barbecues. SPL CEO and prime mover behind the various public/private sector-pushed agro-processing public events, Ramsay Ali, was already demonstrating an unmistakable enthusiasm about the market prospects for plantain fries, not only at home, but in the region as well.

It transpires that plantain fries remain popular at the level of many entertainment events where fish and chicken are served, though the market saturation dreams that had been dreamt by Sterling Pro-ducts, not least the likely supplanting of potato fries in the fast food joints have not materialised. The reason? Earlier this week the SPL boss told Stabroek Business on account of the fact that what had earlier been considered a price deal with farmers had, in effect, fallen through. “Unfortunately, SPL has put on hold the processing, packaging and distribution of Providence Plantain Fries,” the primary reason being “the fluctuation of the price of plantain from farmers.”

Ali, however, refuses to be fazed by what he considers to be a temporary setback. The portents, he believes, are more than promising given both the substantive popularity of plantain fries locally plus the fact that Guyana’s chilled potato fries import bill currently stands “in the vicinity of $650 million, the vast majority of frozen potato fries being imported by the growing number of fast food restaurants that have found their way into Guyana.” Accordingly, he adds, “the advent of plantain fries is an interesting yardstick with which to measure the success of the country’s import substitution programme.” Ali says he believes as well, that there is the potential of local plantain fries for making considerable headway into the regional market given what ought to be the product’s price competitiveness vis-à-vis extra-regional potato fries imported into the Caribbean…..

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