Disadvantaged by an underdeveloped infrastructure and a lack of skilled labor, Guyana’s commercial agricultural output has been considerably limited — since the 19th century, the mainland Caribbean country’s economy has been heavily reliant on its sugar and rice exports. Now, CARANA Agribusiness, an emerging affiliate of the CARANA Corporation, sets to boost Guyana’s production potential and commercial viability by scaling sustainable farms, modernizing the industry, and diversifying crops.
Who are they?
CARANA Corporation, a development consulting firm that directs business strategies in over 250 projects worldwide, has been working on agricultural development projects in Guyana for the past decade, including the management of USAID’s Guyana Trade and Investment Support project. In 2013, the corporation decided to take a more active, industry-wide approach to the process, and formed CARANA Agribusiness.
“A few years ago, CARANA saw that we were running projects and then leaving behind all of this research and development, all this knowledge,” CEO Patrick Henry said. “There was this kind of missing link in taking things from a development project to a commercial venture.”
What are they doing and how are they doing it?
In order to add diversity to Guyana’s market offerings, CARANA Agribusiness is focusing on farming three non-traditional products: hot peppers, passion fruit, and the tambaqui, an Amazonian river fish. Through its own investment and on its own land, CARANA will manage and support a network of contract farmers through each stage of production. Next, it will introduce the product to domestic and international buyers.
“This project is different in that we actually hired growers to farm instead of simply training them on new techniques like we would on a development project. We were running test farms and growing test crops under real conditions, and using new technology and methods,” Henry said.
The company designs its own farming space and provides farmers with inputs and tech; like feed, fertilizer, drip irrigation systems, and GPS mapping. The ultimate goal is to have the farm functioning on the same level that the rest of the industry currently uses.
Guyana offers two massive benefits to budding agriculture initiatives: its location is ideal and it has plenty of free space available.
First, the country falls within the ever-humid equatorial belt, which allows for multiple growing seasons. In addition, its close proximity to Florida makes it easily accessible to US markets.
Second, Guyana has room for growth — literally. By the end of 2013, it had a total population of just below 800,000 people, which amounts to less than four individuals per square kilometer. With most Guyanese inhabitants dwelling near the coastal plain, plotting new farmlands doesn’t mean interfering with locals or encroaching on the rainforest that surrounds 80 percent the country.
CARANA Agribusiness began clearing land for farming earlier this month, and will continue development while working toward their investment goal. Henry says that if CARANA can successfully manage 500 acres, then the company will eventually expand to include products like cacao and timber.
“Through donor funding, we’re able to perform research and development that hadn’t been done in 40 years,” Henry said. “CARANA Agribusiness is an investment vehicle. As long as we raise capital and profit, we will move forward.”
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