By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
PARAMARIBO, Suriname -- The Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and Mardi Holdings of Malaysia are interesting in investing in the agriculture sector of Suriname, according to the CEO of Mardi, Anas Nasrudin, who met with farmers in Suriname this week.
The Islamic Bank and Mardi Holdings are seeking joint ventures in agriculture and food production. Besides rice, they have shown an interest in herbal products, coconut, pineapple, and the palm oil industries of Suriname.
Malaysia is a development success among Muslim countries, and Mardi Holdings has been recognized by the Islamic Bank as one of the top, research and development organisation in food, agriculture and bio-based industries, and for this reason they have partnered.
Mardi, according to its website, is involved in research to generate innovative technologies for the development of the food and agriculture industries. "It provides consultancy and technical services to support the development of food and agriculture industries. The company offers joint ventures and licensing arrangements for the commercialisation of research results."
Mardi Holdings and the Islamic Bank will assist Suriname to tap the lucrative Hallal market globally. With its vast experience, these two groups will aid Suriname in the process of standardisation, accreditation, certification and adoption of the Hallal industry.
Amzad Abdoel, a member of Suriname's Parliament who attended the meeting, said that this is a great opportunity for Surinamese farmers to explore joint ventures with Mardi Holdings. He said, "They (Mardi) have the expertise and IsDB, the financing. We have natural resources and fertile land. We have the opportunity to be the hub between Mardi the Caribbean and Latin America."
"Farmers will be able to improve and expand their products to a global market. We have a lot of Muslims living in the Caribbean. There is a market there that's unexplored. We can use that market to develop our country,” Amzad Abdoel added.
On Monday, the IsDB, Mardi and the government of Suriname signed an agreement to improve and expand the quality and varieties of rice production in Suriname. As well, the agreement will enable farmers to modernize the marketing of their products locally and internationally.
The popular Basmati brand and other types of rice that is ideal for diabetics will be introduced to local farmers in Suriname.
The agreement was signed on Monday by the finance minister of Suriname, Gillmore Hoefdraad, who is also Suriname's governor to the Islamic Bank.
In the next few weeks, experts from Malaysia will travel to Suriname to train over 1,500 farmers in the districts of Nickerie, Coronie and Saramacca.
The company is also interested in the palm oil industry of Suriname, which the government is keen to see take off after many setbacks.
As economic ties between Suriname, the Islamic Bank and member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) take off, there is call for Suriname to be more assertive in participating in these forums whose headquarters are in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Participating in meetings of the OIC, the Islamic Bank and ISESCO are costly for Suriname, thus there is a need for Paramaribo to open a mission in this part of the world that will be managed by an economic and finance expert and with knowledge of Islamic finance and marketing.
Suriname is yet to officially name an ambassador to OIC and a deputy governor to the Islamic Bank.
There has been speculation that the Islamic Bank will open a branch in Suriname especially that Guyana will finally be the 57th member of the bank. Suriname has been a member of the Islamic Bank since 1997.