Guyana is looking to improve its sheep population with the importation of Black Belly rams from Barbados as part of the second phase of a multi-million dollar integrated agriculture project led by businessman Sir Kyffin Simpson.
This is based on a company document which was revealed Wednesday by former Prime Minister Owen Arthur, who has hailed the agreement, signed back in February 2010 between the Government of Guyana and Interamericana Trading Corporation (Barbados), as a CARICOM success story.
While calling on Jamaican businesses to make full use of the provisions under the Treaty of Chaguaramas, Arthur shared with them details of the lease arrangement under which the Guyana government provided 100,000 acres of land in return for a minimum investment of US$5 million in the Santa Fe Mega Farm.
“To date a total of 29,000 acres of land has been leased by [the Government of Guyana] to Santa Fe and the investment has been in excess of US$7 million,” the official document says.
It also highlights the “significant accomplishments” of the MOU.
So far Guyana has benefited from the construction of principal farm buildings and four kilometres of main road to connect the farm to the Georgetown/Lethem Road, as well as the installation of drying and storage facilities, the building of wells to provide water, a 12 kilometre main drain to take excess water from fields to sedimentation ponds, approximately 2,000 metres of secondary drains and an internal drainage and irrigation system consisting of more than 30 kilometres of canals.
Two irrigation pumps have also been installed on floating platforms on the Ireng River.
“These pumps, with a water flow rate of 1,200 litres per second . . . provide necessary water for the rice and other crops cultivated on the farm,” the investors say.
Under the MOU, approximately 8,000 acres of land have also been prepared for rice cultivation and pasture establishment. And since rice production began in 2014, Santa Fe has produced in excess of 10,000 tonnes of paddy and exported over 7,000 tonnes of cargo rice and paddy to Brazil.
“In addition to rice our primary crop, we have planted various fruits, vegetables, sweet potatoes, plantain, bananas, corn, eddoes, and cassava for farine.
“Two Arabian Colts, two Texas Long and two Bradford Bulls were imported from the USA for breeding,” officials added.
The next phase of the project will focus on the development of the cattle programme in keeping with a comprehensive plan prepared by King Ranch Institute of Texas, USA. This plan requires additional grazing pasture for the cattle programme.
“We are expecting to complete the lease of an additional 20,000 acres of cattle grazing land contiguous to the existing leased land which will allow for the expansion of the cattle programme. We are also working on increasing and improving the sheep population with the importation of Black Belly rams from Barbados,” the investors said.
In support of the plan, Arthur has highlighted regional food security as just one area where Pan Caribbean companies must be formed and put to work to achieve the desired results.
Amid the ongoing water challenges being experienced by Barbados, he also suggested that the issue of water security may best be tackled at a regional level, so too the whole thrust to find alternative sources of energy.