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Despite pumping billions into the Guyana sugar Corporation, the entity continues to fail and President Irfaan Ali told a meeting of senior managers on Tuesday that there could not be business as usual.
At the meeting, there was no place for Chief Executive Officer of the corporation, Sasenarine at the head table. In a facebook post, the Office of the President said that the meeting was convened to discuss its strategic direction, at State House. According to the facebook post, the Head of State told approximately 180 managers and other senior officials that “it cannot be business as usual”. He spoke of the need for them to be more effective, efficient, and results-driven in the ever-changing landscape.
The President also listened to suggestions and concerns and deliberated on issues to find solutions. Director-General of the Ministry of Agriculture, Madanlall Ramraj; Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Delma Nedd and Director of Projects at the Office of the President, Marcia Nadir-Sharma were also at the meeting.
GuySuCo last year produced 30,865MT less of sugar when compared with 2020. Based on a report, GuySuCo’s pre-audited production stood at 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.
The ailing sugar corporation has, over the years seen a continuous decline in performance in terms of production but has seen billions of dollars from the nation’s coffers being plugged annually into the industry. In its Mid-Year report last year, the Irfaan Ali Government had acknowledged that the sugar industry continues to decline. In the financial report, the Ministry of Finance said that at the end of the first half of 2021, GuySuCo produced 29,650 tonnes of sugar. “This performance reflects the record high levels of rainfall, which resulted in waterlogged soils, particularly at the Albion Estate, and strike action that resulted in over 5,600 man-days being lost,” the Mid-Year Report indicated. As such, it was emphasised that the sugar industry declined by 22.4 percent when compared to the same period in 2020. Some of the reasons indicated were a 30 percent mortality of mature cane at Albion estate, 10 percent at Uitvlugt and five percent at Blairmont due to the floods. Another 15,000 tonnes of sugar in the second crop were also expected to be lost, based on the Report.
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.