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Govt to tap into RBL’s agri credit facility to fund prawns project in Reg 5 – Pres Ali

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The Guyana Government is looking to secure financing from Republic Bank Limited (RBL) to expand its prawns’ production project being undertaken at Onverwagt, West Coast Berbice (Region 5: Mahaica-Berbice). President Dr Irfaan Ali made this disclosure on Wednesday evening, while speaking at the Private Sector Commission’s (PSC’s) 32nd Annual General Meeting.
The Head of State had visited the project site last week, where some 12 tonnes of Vannamei prawns are expected to be produced per crop, with each tonne having an estimated value of $4million.

President Dr Irfaan Ali

The 100-acre site comprises 10 one-acre ponds, each spanning one acre and capable of housing 600,000 prawns in treated chlorine water. Five ponds are currently operational, with the remaining expected to be filled later this year.
President Ali explained the viability of this initiative to stakeholders on Wednesday evening. “We have 100 acres to develop beyond that 10 one-acre ponds, and we’re going to provide all the technical assistance and capital support. We’re trying to bring together at least 300 young people, 50 per cent of whom must be women, to own that project. And we’re going to write that project up and submit it to Republic Bank in two weeks, for financing under the US$100 million programme that was announced for agriculture support.”
Back in March 2022, Ali, who is leading the Caribbean Community’s goal of slashing the region’s food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025, had announced that Trinidad-based Republic Bank would be offering US$100 million (G$20 billion) in financing for the development of the agriculture sector across the region through the Caricom Sustainability Agriculture Credit Facility.
This is a special facility designed for agriculture activities, including – but not limited to – the development of priority crops, capital equipment for farming, feeder roads to provide access to arable lands, bulk storage for crops, processing plants, and shade house farming across the region. Under this initiative, Guyana can get as much as $2 billion in funding, with interest rates as low as 2.5 per cent; and up to five years for repaying.

One of the prawn ponds at Onverwagt, WCB

The Guyana Government has already committed some $100 million to the prawns’ project, and plans to be a major player in the US$4 billion aquaculture industry. It was recently reported that two Indonesian experts have been retained to train local staff in prawn-rearing techniques.
“We’re going to prove this model. We’re going to do a complete feasibility study, and we’re going (to) demonstrate that this [prawns] project is profitable. And we hope that these young people can get the necessary support to be part of this amazing project, that would not only increase their earning capacity, but would take them from wherever they are to high/middle income very, very quickly,” the President posited on Wednesday.
In fact, the President used this opportunity to reiterate his calls on local financial institutions to be more supportive in their lending, and to work assiduously with persons to create new businesses.
“The role of the bank is not to take deposits and to lend in a low-risk environment. The role of the bank is also to seek opportunities to understand where the economy is going, to create an ecosystem to support where the economy is going, and to build upon what is happening in the country,” the Head of State has posited.
As part of its aggressive food security drive, the Guyana Government has launched the Agriculture and Innovation Entrepreneurship Programme (AIEP), through which several similar initiatives are being rolled out to expand Guyana’s agriculture sector.
“These initiatives are geared to proving models, testing models; and then proving to the banking sector that we have bankable projects… And one of the good things is that, in all of these agriculture initiatives, more than 50 per cent of the participants are women and young people. And that is because of the innovation, the technology, and the model that we’re using,” the Guyanese Leader noted.
In addition to the prawns project, the President went on to outline several other areas that could be very profitable under the AIEP initiative. He pointed to the potential of cassava with not just farine production, but also refined cassava flour for local use as well as for specialised markets overseas. Already, there has been an increase in cassava yields, from 13 tonnes per hectare to 30 tonnes per hectare, due to a new variety being used.
Production of ginger almost tripling has also been highlighted by the Guyanese Leader, who mentioned that work is also ongoing on setting up a National Honey Bank. In fact, several specialists have been hired to support expanding local honey production.
“We’re not doing studies anymore, because we have enough studies – decks of studies to prove all these models,” President Ali has asserted.
Other new crops that the Government has heavily invested in are soya and corn. In collaboration with the private sector, corn and soya production has been successful, with increased crops being cultivated at the Tacama facility in Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Upper Berbice). The Head of State has noted that Guyana is moving to be fully self-sufficient in corn and soya production, to not only meet local demand, but also demand in the Caribbean region in the coming years.
“By the end of next year, we’ll be fully self-sufficient in corn and soya. Today, another 3000 acres is under cultivation in the Tacama area. That would allow us to have all the backward and forward linkages to have the full feed production for livestock and poultry done here in Guyana. By the time we get to the end of 2027, we’re hoping to capture at least 35 per cent of the regional market in corn, soya and feed,” he explained.
By October of this year, Guyana is expected to produce all the feed needed for the local agriculture industry. This, according to the Guyanese Leader, will cut the cost of feed by 50 per cent in that sector. According to President Ali, agriculture is Guyana’s future, and will be a massive revenue earner for the country, hence the heavy investments being made by the Government in this sector.
With these investments, he noted, the country is expected to save massively on food importation by the end of 2025.
“People might say, ‘Oh, we’re planting a lot and growing a lot, but what does it mean?’ It means that we will be saving, by the end of next year, more than maybe US$150 million of imports, because that is what we spend. When you look at the US dollars that we spend to import onions, to import corn, to import soya, to import feed, to import black eye and to import red beans – that is the type of foreign currency impact that they’re talking about,” the President stated. (G-8)

The post Govt to tap into RBL’s agri credit facility to fund prawns project in Reg 5 – Pres Ali appeared first on Guyana Times.

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