Kayman Sankar has been described as the ultimate rice magnate, and the man who revolutionised the industry on the Essequibo Coast, as he was laid to rest on Friday.
Rice Producer Association (RPA) General Secretary Dharamkumar Seeraj, speaking to Guyana Times immediately after the funeral service, said Sankar has left his footprint in the industry.
Seeraj said Sankar as a parliamentarian during the People’s National Congress (PNCR) administration represented all farmers and their interest.
He related that at one time, Sankar was the agriculture spokesperson for farmers on the Essequibo Coast.
During his time as parliamentarian, Seeraj said Sankar represented farmers at the grassroots level, raising all concerns affecting them.
The RPA general secretary said Sankar had a special ability to interact with farmers and was trusted to lobby for their betterment.
As a member of the Rice Action Committee, he said Sankar fought tirelessly for rice farmers.
RPA General Secretary Dharamkumar Seeraj
The RPA general secretary said despite Sankar being a representative for farmers, he had a passion for farming himself. The passion grew, prompting him to invest millions of dollars in a rice mill.
Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) General Manager Jagnarine Singh noted when one thinks of rice in Essequibo, they think of Kayman Sankar. Singh said Sankar went through some of the most trying times in the rice industry and despite his many challenges; he never wavered, always maintaining a high level of production.
The GRDB general manager said the businessman secured great markets and prices in Europe for farmers, and without doubt, was a trailblazer in the industry.
Speaking on the achievements of Sankar, Singh said when the rice industry was facing serious trouble in the 1970s-80s, Essequibo remained competitive despite the challenges, mainly because it was kept alive by a man named “Kayman Sankar!”
He said Sankar was a man with a vision, and the fact that the rice industry is now producing 500,000 thousand tonnes of rice, is because of the groundwork and contribution of Sankar.
According to Beni Sankar, son of the deceased, his father was a wise man and came from humble beginnings. Sankar, during his eulogy, related that his father emerged from being a simple farmer to a miller.
Kayman Sankar Rice Mill Limited is a household name for practically everyone on the Essequibo Coast.
Sankar was born on June 3, 1926 at Corneila Ida, West Coast Demerara to parents Sewsankar and Dooknie Sankar. He was the eldest of five siblings.
Beni said his father worked as a labourer on the Cornelia Ida Estate as a young boy after his parents could not have afforded to allow him to continue his primary education.
He began farming between 1956 and 1965 at Dunleld/Perth and Bounty Hall on the Essequibo Coast.
After a few years of farming, Sankar partnered with his brother Mahadoe and nephew Nandalall Sankar and they purchased a large piece of land at Dunkeld/Perth.
The lands were cleared of bushes and converted into rice fields.
He related that initially, the family was not successful in cultivating rice; however, through courage and determination in 1966, the rice industry started to bloom after Sankar acquired 1556 acres of land at Hampton Court.
The family business started to develop in the year 1966. The first crop was cultivated in 1968 and all lands were fully developed in1968. The company was registered in 1975 and the second phase of expansion began soon after.
In 1984, two rice mills were built along with a rice sheller and length grader and Sankar was on his way to becoming the largest private rice miller in the country.
In 1985, the company further expanded to include Sankar Air Division and in 1988, it established a drying and storage facility.
Over the years, Sankar employed a number of workers, many of whom he assisted in acquiring their own homes, especially from Hampton Court and neighbouring villages. Some of his rice lands were rented out to rice farmers throughout the coast.
The rice magnate passed away on Tuesday night at age 87. He had been ailing for some time. He is survived by his wife Seraji Sankar and their three children, Seeta, Beni Sankar and Sita.