Agriculture for centuries has been considered essential in the lives of many and has been integrated among countries all across the world.
In Guyana, agriculture has proved itself to be very lucrative for the locals, but many farmers are faced with many challenges when it comes to their crops. Some say that soil testing could help tremendously with the many challenges faced in the agri industry.
The Nand Persaud Group of Companies, the rice-producing giant in Berbice, saw these needs as an opportunity to help farmers.
In December 2017 Nand Persaud signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the University of Guyana to streamline a scientific soil-testing laboratory (centre) with $40M already donated to kick start the project.
On Wednesday at the University of Guyana, John’s Science Centre, Berbice, farmers, members of the private sector and students of the institution witnessed the sod-turning to mark the commencement of the construction of the Nand Persaud Soil Testing Centre.
Professor Ivelaw Griffith, Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana, during his brief remarks stated that such an initiative will not only benefit the company, but the university and the community will also benefit tremendously. He mentioned that the Institute for Food & Nutrition security that will be pursued at the university will allow a “sound basis for quality and advice on agriculture and food safety and nutrition”, the corporate and civic partners will be needed.
This, he said, will not only develop Guyana, but will also actualize the potential for the Caribbean and South America.
He continued, “You are a part of a historic moment, because years from now when the real work of this centre translates into practical reality to expand agriculture, many will remember this day as an important part of that journey”.
Chairman of Nand Persaud Group of Companies, Rajendra Persaud, expressed his appreciation to UG for supporting the project, since according to him, “this is not something that the government institutes partner with the private sector. This is a step in a whole new direction”.
He noted that when the idea took precedence, he saw it as being of huge importance, since the Oil and Gas industry is taking shape rapidly.
According to Persaud, for persons to survive in the rice and other industries in Guyana “we have to be competitive”. Elaborating, Persaud stated that in order for that to happen, things ought to be done scientifically.
“This soil-testing lab will take us in that direction. We will do rice cultivation and any other cultivation in a scientific way”, he added.
The Chairman disclosed that with such a lab, soil will be analyzed, what the soil needs will be determined, and what crops suit that soil.
“You see, once you have the soil test you will know exactly what you need to put into the soil. At some point in time our costs are going to go up and when costs go up we need to find ways to make a margin”.
He stressed that the intention is to make the industry more competitive with the reduction in use of fertilizer and the increase in productivity.
Additionally, Persaud revealed that he also has intentions of creating agriculture incubation programmes. He said the objective is to not only depend on rice as a crop, but to “create new crops in the region”.
Meanwhile, President of the Central Corentyne Chamber of Commerce Mr. Bhigroog Poonai who represented the business community, in his address reiterated that agriculture is considered the backbone of the Berbice economy. Poonai expounded that the soil-testing lab, set to take shape within in the next two weeks, is symbolic to the development of the region.
“Many of us in our different capacities will benefit from this soil-testing lab. Soil testing is important in Berbice for a number of reasons; farmers will be able to boost crop production, to protect the environment from the excessive use of fertilizers, to diagnose crop problems, to improve the nutritional balance of the growing plants and much more”, Poonai said.
He expressed that UG and Nand Persaud’s collaboration on the venture is an exciting one that will benefit all.
Also present at the simple ceremony was the CEO of Nand Persaud Group of Companies, Mohindra Persaud, Director of UGBC Prof. Gomathinayagam Subramanian, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic Engagement Prof. Michael E. Scott and Prof. Paloma Mohamed, DVC Philanthropy, Alumni and Civic Engagement (PACE).
The initiative is a collaborative effort between Nand Persaud and the University of Guyana. Construction of the lab is expected to commence in two weeks and is estimated to be completed within six weeks. The construction of the building is estimated at a cost of $24M.
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