Clearly, sugar and by extension sugar workers are no longer a priority of the administration

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Dear Editor,

GuySuCo’s new revised target sugar production is nothing to celebrate or be proud of (March 20 and Jan 23, 2022 reports). The media reported that GuySuCo slashed production target for 2022 to 66K tons, a reduction of the projected 70K, and marginally over the 58K tons of 2021 (Dec 25, 2021). Of the targeted 97,420 tons for 2021, the company managed just above half — only 58K tons as your paper reported.

Last March, as reported in the media, the company announced that it is on course to reach the revised target of 66K tons for 2022. This is just 8K tons more than the flood affected 2020 crops. Will it reach the target? Is that an achievement for GuySuCo, or something to cheer about and celebrate? There are some queer concepts of sugar production that defy logical intelligence and makes fools of the public if not the political directorate. How long more does the government feel sugar workers and the public can be fooled?

Even if the production targets are reached this year, is the company producing cost effectively enough to ‘Capture World Markets’ or reduce price of sugar for local consumers? Isn’t the company still dependent on charitable subsidies from the state which so far has handed it some $15 billion since October 2020 and settled with sugar workers for a bonus as well as wage increment. Had the subsidies been used efficiently, it would have been enough to re-open the four closed estates to full production by now and the creation of some 10K jobs. It is now 20 months since the change in administration, enough time for harvesting if the four estates had gone into cultivation with a spurt in the economy.

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To measure real success in sugar production, one has to examine the PRIMARY PRODUCTIVITY INDECES: TONNES CANE PER ACRE/HECTARE as well as Tonnes Cane/Tonne Sugar. Both indexes have declined from three years ago. It takes more than double the amount of hectares to produce a ton of cane and ditto the amount of cane to produce a ton of sugar from what it was just a few years ago when the coalition had neglected the industry. It is much worse from under the previous PPP government. Productivity is extremely low, the worst in the history of the industry and has been declining steadily from preceding periods of coalition rule as well as under the previous PPP administrations. When the company was under management of Raj Singh, Nanda Gopaul, Vishnu Panday, Donald Ramotar and others, production was more efficient. Productivity was much higher.

While production level has been revised from January followed by cheers of achievement in March, there has not been a corresponding reduction in cost of production. Worse, the quality of work at several levels remain substandard and there also appears inadequate knowledge of cultivation and harvesting by leadership: land preparation, planting materials, planting itself, timely applications of herbicides, fertilizers, samplings for nutritional status, remedial status corrections, limestone applications in land prep, irrigation in dry periods, cane replanting, maturity samplings, ripener applications, harvesting schedules and standards, delivery time of harvests to factory, burning and grinding intervals, factory operations, cane preparations shredding, mill extraction, juice clarification, juice to syrup, vacuum pan seeding, crystal growing, crystallization, centrifugation. There seems to be sugar losses at every stage of production from planting to milling.

There have been other issues impacting on production and that would have led to revised targets: flooding at Albion for several months, pumps were inoperable over one year; purchases from overseas that are not suited to cultivation and harvesting, timely payment to suppliers, high cost of fertilizers than usual, institutional memory gone with termination of good people, poor IT support of field and factory operations. The Sugar Industry is a complex organism that has a 12 month gestation from planting to harvesting. Continuous grinding depends on full manual harvester turnout, not 60% as is the case now. Mechanical harvesting requires rapid delivery to the factory because cane is cut in pieces and the juice dry up quickly.

There are also issues with packaging that requires uniform crystal size & colour. And the Enmore packaging plant has been sold or leased to a company (as your paper reported) that would transition to oil and gas, putting sugar workers out of a job. What we have had in Guyana over the last year is packaging of sugar and higher prices to consumers. Production costs are transferred to poor consumers; sugar is being sold at the highest prices ever in the history of the country. The wealthy hardly consume Guysuco sugar. It is sold to the poor and working class. The ruling party’s working class and by extension support for the party is severely affected by the problems confronting Guysuco. The President also announced that Skeldon and Enmore will not be producing sugar. Wales will be an energy related industrial complex. The ruling party’s supporters in the industry are suffering. And the country has wasted several billions over the last 18 months.

Clearly, sugar and by extension sugar workers are no longer a priority of the administration. Who in the government or Ministry of Agriculture are paying attention to Guysuco and management as well as productivity issues? Politics has impacted on GuySuCo. Political loyalty should not be a criterion Guysuco hiring or management especially if the latter lacks skills in or knowledge of the industry. Those ignorant of sugar cultivation (science) and harvesting should not be associated with the industry or else they will make a total mess of the industry lessening the chance of recovery.

Yours truly,
Mukesh Narine



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