Soyabean mega farm set to reap second crop

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Stabroek News | 5 March 2023

Soyabean mega farm set to reap second crop
 
By Marcelle Thomas 
      
As the construction of government’s mega drying facility in Region Ten forges ahead, the Tacama Gold mega-farm is preparing to reap a second successful crop of soybean and both are even more optimistic of reaching desired targets.
 
“The large silos and drying facility are not yet completed, but we are preparing to reap by the end of this month… It is looking real good,” Director of Tacama Gold David Fernandes told Stabroek News on Friday when contacted for an update.
 
Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha told this newspaper that for the end-of-March crop, some 1,200 tonnes of soyabean will be reaped and that by the end of this year, planting of the crop will increase to about 3,000 acres. He praised the producers for their hard work and dedication.
 
“We are trying to bridge the gap for importing for the livestock sector. It is hoped that by 2025 we will be at least producing and meeting the need for especially soya, even as we work to reduce our corn and soya imports. I hope that we can, by 2025, meet the soya targets,” he said.
 
Mustapha said that the government will press to ensure the livestock feed targets are met, as this is directly related to the overall minimizing of Guyana’s import food bill, in keeping with Caricom’s 25 by 25 food goal.
 
He said the soya project is an example that this country can not only meet its target but be of help to sister nations in reaching theirs.
 
As regards the drying facility, he said work is coming along and the project will be completed in another few months.
 
Minister of Finance Dr Ashni Singh, during his 2022 budget presentation, had told the National Assembly that the government had committed $236 million for the procurement of a drying and storage facility and an additional $225 million for installation and other work.
 
Storage silos being set up at the Tacama Farm
 
A further $426 million will be spent to complete the rehabilitation of 47 kilometres of a vital Ituni to Tacama farm-to-market road, starting from the junction of the Linden/Ituni road and heading east towards the Berbice River. Last year, some $102 million was spent to commence rehabilitation works on the road.
 
In December, Fernandes, who leads the consortium spearheading the project, confirmed plans for two crops per year, given better than projected yields.
 
“We did quite well because this is all virgin soil. Right now, everything looks promising because one of the fields did three tonnes per hectare… We projected less, because this was a field that nothing was ever planted on before, ever. We went and put in the seeds and the area did magic,” he had said.
 
“So we basically used parameters that are global to be able to calculate the lands we would need to produce this [the amount of crop]. Now if you note here, we were only to do one crop per year, but when we did the trials at Dubulay Farms, we figured out that we could actually do two crops a year. We are going to be doing that because we reaped one crop and have started planting the other already. That [planting] process will end next week,” he added.
 
He is optimistic that “if the man upstairs [God] keeps blessing us, we will get better and better after every crop.”
 
Fernandes explained that the group had asked government for 85,000 acres of land but was given 27,000, so that the venture could be assessed before additional land was given. “We have to do a good job before they would, obviously, look to give us more, which is not a problem,” he said.
 
However, setbacks with delivery of limestone to neutralise the acidic soil in the Region 10 area, saw planting of only 450 acres as compared to the 1,000 earmarked.
 
But the company projects that it can get up to 2.2 tonnes per hectare, as the best fields did over three tonnes per hectare this year .
 
“Our next phase, we will plant 1,000 acres and are doing so now as we speak. Then next year we will start going to 2,500 acres …and so on. We will rapidly expand and hope to get to 6,000 acres…then 15,000 acres. Our goal is to get there fastest,” he said, while pointing out that the goal target is to begin exporting significant amounts through the Caricom Single Market and Economy by 2027 “if not before.”
 
Fernandes noted that in cultivating the crop the group decided to minimize the use of tilling. ”Most of the places in the world are depleting the organic matter in the soil and causing it to become a desert. We won’t do that. The soils we went and work with, because we don’t want to be chopping our jungles down, we took the worst soils that was available; savannah soils. So we have to increase the organic matter in the soil and make it more fertile. Hence we are now using no or little till methods,” Fernandes said.
 
“For the second crop, you just shred the crops when you harvest, on top of it and leave it there to become like a mulch; like organic matter, and we will plant on top of that. You will find that after a year or two, you will see the area not as sandy anymore, because that matter will now make the soil quality better and better. We plan to use no till as much as possible,” he added.
The large-scale trial cultivation of corn and soya bean by the private investors was announced in 2021 as a means to safeguard the country’s livestock feed supply

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News Room | 11 January 2023

 
The first Soya bean trial cultivation at the Dubulay Ranch, which is located approximately 70 miles south of Georgetown along the Berbice River, has been dubbed successful and the second crop is under cultivation.
 
This project is being undertaken by a group of local investors under the name “Tacama Gold”. The investors are the owners of Guyana Stock Feed Limited, Royal Chicken, Edun Farms, SBM Wood, Dubulay Ranch and Bounty Farm Limited, along with the Brazilian-owned N F Agriculture.
 
David Fernandes, the Assistant Managing Director of Bounty Farm Limited on Tuesday told farmers at Kwakwani, Region Ten that after the first successful trial, which the Agriculture Ministry said had 495 acres of soya bean sowed in 2022, the large-scale trial cultivation commenced. Fernandes was speaking at an outreach spearheaded by Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha.
 
“We have already finished one crop and we have already planted the second crop of 1,000 acres.”
 
“We believe that because it has been so successful that in these areas and Savannah lands in Region Ten we could possibly get two crops a year and we will for sure by 2025 see the demands for all soya bean needs in the country come from Guyana,” Fernandes said.
 
The harvesting is scheduled to take place in March and adds to the Government of Guyana’s aim of Guyana becoming the food capital of the Caribbean.
 
The collaboration came after President Dr. President Irfaan Ali met with the group and proposed a public-private partnership to commence the production of corn and soya beans, two of the main ingredients in livestock feed.
 
As part of the 2021 national budget, some $500M was allocated to improve the requisite infrastructure to support the project. Thus far, it has set out to improve access to farmlands for the cultivation of the soya bean.
 
Major contracts, totalling $251,440,000 were last year set aside for the construction of 25 kilometers of road at Tacama, Region 10 (Upper Demerara – Berbice) to provide access to over 30,000 acres of savannah lands. However, the end of year report by the Agriculture Ministry states approximately 40 kilometres of the road was completely constructed at Tacama.
 
This has greatly assisted the trials, Fernandes said. He added that Guyana has to become self-reliant, especially with the after effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said with the success of the soya bean trials, the country is progressing in that direction.
 
“Because of COVID we found that becoming self-reliant as a nation is very critical for us to succeed,” he said.
Fernandes also encouraged the school children who were in attendance at the outreach to become involved in agriculture. He said there is new technology being used in the sector.
 
“We are the most sophisticated technology. The tractors work with auto steer meaning that they work hands-free so you programme the tractor to run on their own. They run on GPS lines. This is kind of like innovation at a different level so the young people that are interested in it could be a part of it,” Fernandes explained.
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