Several recipients of loans and grants
A US$1.7 million Agricultural Export Diversification Programme aimed at increasing high-quality production of meat, vegetables and aquaculture species for export was launched on Wednesday.
Agriculture Minister, Robert Persaud said another GUY$350 million is being provided by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
Chairman of the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI), John Tracey said the GUY$340 million would provide a mix of grants and loans to reduce the cost of capital to businesses and so increase the chances of success and sustainability.
“While fairly modest in amount, we feel this programme is equally significant to the development of the agricultural sector, allowing specific non-traditional activities to be given a financial injection geared towards boosting agricultural exports,” he said.
Tracey said the bank has so far received the bank has received 44 applications from the clusters- 24 for fruits and vegetables, nine for aquaculture and 11 for livestock. To date, six have been approved.
Six loans and five grants, amounting to GUY$49.6 million, were handed out today. They were divided into GUY$43.1 million in loans and GUY$6.4 million in grants.
The recipients were Sankars Tilapia Farm inc. GUY$21.2 million; Bagwan Dhaniram GUY$2.9 for fruits and vegetables; Premnaught Bismath GUY$2.4 m fruits and vegetables; Bannshingh Guyadeen GUY$9.5 million for aquaculture.
Those receiving grants included the West Berbice Sheep and Goat Association- GUY$1M; Pomeroon Women’s Organisation- GUY$1M (to produce Virgin coconut oil) ; Rockstone Village Council – GUY$1.2 million (to scale up vegetable production/farming in that community.
Project Coordinator of the Agriculture Sector Support Project, Jimmy Bhojedat said that with the involvement of the Inter American Development Bank (IDB), the process was fair and transparent. Those favourably considered, he said, were sent to the bank with a technical recommendation and the financial institution conducted due diligence ensure that they can repay. "These aren't handouts. They are loans to be used for the enhancement of the sector,” he said.
Under the 10-year loan facility, loans would be provided at interest rates of between five and eight percent for loans between GUY$3 million and GUY$9 million. Tracey said the concessionary rates are being offered to borrowers because government has offered GBTI concessions.
The bank’s CEO said the bank has already developed a yard-stick to measure the success of the loan facility. ‘The success of this facility, ladies and gentlemen, we feel should be measured by the impact on exports- both short and long term to the various agricultural clusters,” he said. Another key measurement tool, he said, is debt-servicing to ensure the use of the revolving-fund.
The GBTI wants borrowers to ensure proper record keeping and make themselves available for regular visits to measure progress and address problems.
The monies would be used to provide working capital for buying equipment, financing the suppliers of equipment and replacing obsolete means of production.
GBTI boasts the highest loan portfolio in the agriculture sector- 10 percent last year and 12 percent so far for this year.