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…dozens of workers being turned away daily due to lack of work
Over one month after the Uitvlugt Sugar Estate ground to a halt due to a mechanical failure of its #1Mill gearbox, the factory is still out of operations and workers are anxious about their future at a corporation that remains unprofitable.
As of Friday a source at the estate told the Village Voice News, that the mechanical problem is still to be fixed. The source believes the corporation is unable to source part locally. Contacted Guyana Sugar Corporation confirmed that the Uitvlugt Sugar Factory is still out of operations.
Early last month GuySuCo had said the factory went down after the mechanical problem was detected. A technical team kicked into action and had the required repairs commence at a fabrication workshop. This newspaper was told that the repairs were done on the gearbox that was damaged, but when it was returned to GuySuCo it broke down again. The company had been back and forth with the fabrication shop to fix the problem to no avail.
GuySuCo produced a mere 58,025MT of sugar in 2021 compared to 88,890MT in 2020. Despite the significant shortfall, the Corporation had said it met all the needs of the local market for 2021. It was explained that the shortfall was a result of the loss of some 35 percent of the standing cane during the 2nd Crop of 2021 due to the flood. “At Albion, where 50 percent of the production was programmed to be made, the mortality rate for the standing canes planned to be harvested for the 1st Crop of 2022 is estimated at 80 percent due to the floods. On the Berbice Estates where more than 77 percent of the production is made, the rainfalls in 2021 were 72 percent more than the previous year,” GuySuCo detailed, while noting that it drained some 4.5 million tonnes of water off the land daily during the 65-day flood.
GuySuCo’s fortunes have waned significantly over the years despite billions being pumped into it.
Back in 2017 the Coalition Government had unveiled what it termed a ‘State Paper on the Future of the Sugar Industry’, which it then said would focus on the poorly-performing estates and have them shift from sugar to diversification. The plan was to amalgamate Wales Estate with Uitvlugt Estate and reassign its cane to the Uitvlugt factory, since the estate is operating at 50 percent capacity. Sixty percent of its drainage and irrigation infrastructure is in a dilapidated condition. The corporation furthermore seeks to divest itself of the Skeldon Estate.
The estates of Albion and Rose Hall were to be amalgamated and the factory at Rose Hall is to be closed.” The Coalition had said that the industry would then consist of three estates and three sugar factories. The estates would be Blairmont on the West Bank Berbice, Albion-Rose Hall in East Berbice and the Uitvlugt-Wales estate in West Demerara. The three estates will be complete with factories and will have cane supplied from all five locations. By virtue of the amalgamation, the Enmore, East Coast Demerara (ECD) and Rose Hall, Berbice factories were to be closed. The PPP/C had criticised the move and made a central theme of its 2020 elections campaign to reopen all of the shuttered estates.
However, two years after being in office, the government has not been able to reopen any of the estates. In fact, late last year Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo told state media that: “timeline for viability on sugar is linked to how quickly we decouple sugar from other activities, and so going purely after sugar itself it would mean a longer term return to viability. If we can merge sugar with other economic activities on these estates which we are trying to do then we can achieve overall viability faster.” He said the government will be examining several proposals for the sugar industry this year, even as he acknowledged that GuySuCo has not only a financial problem, but a production problem. For last year alone, GuySuCo received over $6 Billion from the national treasury. It received a further $6B in this year’s budget.