Some 40 farmers who currently supply fruit to Demerara Distillers Limited’s TOPCO juice operations are ready to increase their cultivation of required fruit to meet the company’s growing demand.
This comes at a time when TOPCO is conducting a multibillion-dollar expansion project, which will initially require over two million pounds of fruit annually.
According to the company, the farmers met today with officials of Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) and representatives of a number of agencies including the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA) and the Institute of Private Enterprise Development (IPED) to discuss issues which would help to ensure that they successfully expand their cultivation.
The issues highlighted included assistance with the provision of agricultural extension services which would deal with the best practices for cultivation, soil testing, treatment of infestation and advice on measures to reduce post-harvest losses.
The issue of pricing for their fruit was also raised and DDL’s Chairman, Komal Samaroo, informed the farmers that another price increase will be effective in February 2020, one year following the last price increase. Samaroo also informed the farmers that arrangements would be put in place to ensure they are paid within three days of supplying their produce. He said that payments would be made electronically to farmers’ bank accounts.
“This is a serious partnership between TOPCO and you the farmers. Arrangements are for the guaranteed purchase of your fruit at a guaranteed price. So, when the market price goes down you will still be receiving the price upon which we agreed. This is a contract between you and us. We need each other and must address all the issues that will make this partnership mutually successful,” Samaroo told the farmers at the meeting held at Diamond. Farmers from as far as the Pomeroon were among those participating in the meeting and tour of the expansion project.
The farmers also heard presentations by Rebecca Rampher-Adams, TOPCO plant manager, Benjamin Frank of NAREI and Kaimlall Chattergoon of IPED and engaged in lively question and answer sessions following each presentation.
Rampher-Adams in her presentation emphasized the critical importance of quality, pointing out that the fruits supplied must be ripe, be free of any pests, worms and insects that could cause contamination, must be free of dirt and animal dung and the crates, bags and containers used to transport the fruit must be clean. She also advised that several agencies will provide technical advice and assistance to help ensure these standards are met.
The new TOPCO plant is expected to be commissioned in July 2020.