Asian investors to sign biofuel pact on Sunday

The $85 million Bioethanol Demonstration Plant commissioned on Tuesday

Investors from China and Malaysia are expected in Guyana on Sunday to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Agriculture Ministry, paving the way for a feasibility study on the production of biofuel in the Canje Basin.


The China-Malaysia commercial group is just one of 15 international investors that are eyeing Guyana for the production of biofuels through the planting of sugar cane, corn, soya, and palm.


During an exclusive interview with Guyana Times on Wednesday, Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy said the already-composed MoU will be signed in the coming week.


With the growing demand for palm oil across the world, the company will explore the possibility of large-scale palm oil production and the simultaneous production of agro-fuel. Once planted, the tropical tree can produce fruit for more than 30 years, agriculturalists indicate.


Currently, Indonesia is the leading supplier for the global market that demands more of the tree’s versatile oil for cooking, cosmetics, and biofuels. With the large-scale production of palm oil, Minister Ramsammy believes Guyana can tap into the global market.


In addition to the China-Malaysian Group, a company out of India is currently conducting a feasibility study in another section of the Canje Basin to determine the possibility of bioethanol production through sugar cane. Dr Ramsammy said the company will be placing major emphasis on the production of bioethanol. However, given the company’s close proximity to the Skeldon Sugar Factory, if feasible, the Agriculture Ministry will be working along with it to provide the factory with sugar cane.


Biofuel technology


Just two days ago, Guyana’s first Bio-Ethanol Demonstration Plant was commissioned to the tune of $85 million. The project was funded by the Inter-American Development Bank-Japanese Special Fund for Sustainable Energy and Climate Change and the government of Guyana through a technical cooperation pact. The plant will be used to demonstrate the production of fuel grade ethanol, provide a small number of vehicles with fuel, and train local personnel in biofuel technologies.


With two primary components, it will produce hydrous ethanol (95 per cent from molasses) and anhydrous ethanol (99.9 per cent) for the fuelling of approximately 30 vehicles using an E10 formula (a 10 per cent ethanol-90 per cent gasoline blend).


Meanwhile, in the Intermediate Savannahs, a Barbadian company is exploring the possibility of large-scale production of corn to supply Guyana’s feed industry and produce agro-fuel. The company is using a 20-hectare plot of land to conduct its studies and has been working feverishly for the past six months.


F5 Strategy


In June, the ministry announced that it has decided to grow corn and peas to reduce the high importation cost of these two products, which are imported mainly from Belize.


 The agriculture minister explained that while approximately 500,000 hectares of land are being used for the production of food to meet the demands of the Guyanese populace, the country has the potential to be the breadbasket of the Caribbean and a fuel giant.


“Guyana is one of the few countries in the world that still has a large amount of land that can be made arable. So areas such as the Intermediate Savannahs, Canje Basin, and Rupununi Savannahs where we have hundreds of thousands of hectares of land, they can be made available for agriculture, if we were to build the infrastructure,” he explained.


With financial investment from private agencies, the Agriculture Ministry will be expanding its exportation base to include cash crops.


Turning his attention to the exportation of poultry, Dr Ramsammy explained that the country is currently producing to meet the needs of the local market. He said its inability to tap into the global market was a result of the high cost attached to feed. “Even though Guyana produces its own feed, all of the inputs come from outside of the country… the protein content, the micro-nutrient content is imported into the country and that costs a lot, the two important crops for feed production are corn and soya,” he explained.


He pointed out that approximately 40,000 tonnes of corn and approximately 15,000 tonnes of soya are shipped into the country for the poultry industry.


According to Dr Ramsammy, with the planting of corn, Guyana can reduce the import bill, export poultry to the Caribbean and the wider world, and simultaneously produce biofuels. “Haiti imports more than a 100 million tonnes of chicken from the U.S. – could you imagine if we have access to just a small part of that market?” he asked.  The production of food and the simultaneous generation of agro-fuel forms part of the Agriculture Ministry F5 Strategy.  (