Over the last two months, Guyana's media has been focusing the public’s attention almost wholly on the Oil and Gas industry and Election Politics. Despite this, however, the launching of the expansion project of the Tropical Orchards Products Company (TOPCO) has spontaneously caught the imagination of the consumer community.
In consumer circles, there has been much interest in the quality of juices TOPCO produces, the benefits the expansion project will bring to the farmers and the new industries it will generate.
Many parents felt a discomfiture when the contract to supply the school feeding programme with juices was removed from TOPCO and given to a Suriname Company since they preferred their children to consume the healthier TOPCO juices, which were formulated from genuine fresh fruit and not from reconstituted chemical substances as the foreign juices tend to be.
Moreover, the irony has not been lost to many who have noted that DDL has invested $4 billion to upgrade TOPCO juices and stimulate Guyanese Agriculture while the foreign company is quite happy with its profits without investing anything in Guyanese Agriculture.
DDL has the well-known reputation of doing adequate research on any project on which it embarks and does so in a structured and logical manner. In addition to its brilliant leadership, its methodology ensures success in any project the Company undertakes.
There were high level and substantive discussions entered into between DDL, led by its executive Chairman Komal Samaroo supported by Production Director Shaun Caleb, TOPCO Plant Manager Rebecca Ramphere, Project Engineer Joshua Gobin and Government Affairs consultant Wesley Kirton and several relevant Government Ministries and agencies.
These included Ministries of Agriculture, Finance, Education, School of Agriculture (GSA), Marketing Corporation (GMC), National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), University of Guyana (UG), National Industrial and Commercial Investments Ltd (NICIL) and the Carnegie School of Home Economics. These agencies were briefed in detail on the Project and were brought on board.
The Project is being materialised and its two most important components, a one-tonne per hour fruit processing line and a one-litre Tetra Pak juice line and a Milk packaging line are being installed. Farmers, Government officials and other visitors have been visiting the Project as it moves towards completion. It is expected that production will begin in five or six months’ time.
The expansion is designed to process and package increased volumes of the existing products, which includes cherry, passion fruit, carambola and guava juices as well as new ones including mango, pineapple, citrus and vegetable juices.
At present 360,000 pounds of fruit are being supplied by farmers but when the expansion begins, two million pounds of fruit will be required.
A revolution would occur in fruit farming. Farmers would enjoy a guaranteed market with stable prices never subject to the vagaries of market forces. Another benefit the farmers would enjoy is opening the door of collaboration with a network of technical and financial agricultural support agencies.
A most important facet of the project is that the plant would be able to produce pasteurised milk, initially from reconstituted milk and eventually from milk supplied by local dairy farmers. An import substitution would be provided for milk at present imported and the Guyanese dairy industry, which was almost destroyed by the importation of powdered milk would be resuscitated.
The popular foreign juice imports are all reconstituted chemicals while TOPCO juices are made from genuine fresh fruit and are healthier to consume and it is this fact, which caused parents to regret the removal of the school feeding contract from TOPCO.
Komal Samaroo, Executive Chzirman of DDL is one of the most creative businessmen in the Caribbean and he sees the project in national terms. He strongly feels that the Agricultural Sector must go beyond rice, sugar, plantains, bananas and ground provisions.
It must be developed to include value added processing of the nation’s fruits and vegetables into pulp and juices. The Milk Industry should also be resuscitated to produce various milk products.