…to get price increase from February 2020As Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) has embarked on its multi-billion-dollar expansion project for their TOPCO brand, 40 local farmers met with the company’s officials and representatives of other agencies on Friday at Diamond, East Bank Demerara, to discuss a variety of matters which will help to ensure that the project and operations are successful.Farmers touring the TOPCO expansion facilityThe farmers present already supply fruit to DDL for its TOPCO juice operations and they are now eager to increase their cultivation in order to meet the increased demand of the company which has since expanded its juice line for the purpose of local consumption as well as export.Representatives of the Agriculture Ministry, the National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA) and the Institute of Private Enterprise Development (IPED) offered advice and support to help to guide farmers as they expand cultivation. This included assistance with the provision of agriculture extension services which would deal with cultivation best practices, soil testing, treatment of infestation and advise on measures to reduce post-harvest losses.The farmers raised the issue of pricing for their fruit produce to which DDL’s Chairman, Komal Samaroo, responded by assuring that they will soon benefit from a price increase effective February 2020. That would mark one year since the last price increase.Samaroo also assured the farmers that systems will be put in place to ensure that they receive payment no later than three days of their fruit supply and he also said that payment will be deposited 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,” the Chairman said.Presentations were made by representatives of the various agencies who attended after which they engaged in question and answer segments with the farmers. Among the presenters were TOPCO Plant Manager Rebecca Rampher-Adams, Benjamin Frank of NAREI and Kaimlall Chattergoon of IPED.The TOPCO Plant Manager emphasised the importance of the quality of their produce to the farmers and she also stated that a number of agencies will provide technical advice and assistance to help ensure that standards outlined are met.Chattergoon of IPED briefed the farmers on the various services from which they would be able to benefit from, including the development of business plans, financial management and loans which are not subject to the credit ratings of the farmers.Friday’s meeting and tour of the expansion works saw farmers coming from as far as the Pomeroon to be in attendance.