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|The Government of Barbados announced it is moving “full steam ahead” to close the sugar industry with next year’s sugar harvest being the beginning of the process and final closure expected somewhere between 2023-2027. The Minister of Agriculture, Indar Weir, said the Government can no longer continue to put money in the industry if Barbados is to reach food and nutritional security.
As Barbados put systems in place to deal with sugar, which no longer receives preferential treatment in the international marketplace and cost for production continues to exponentially exceed sales, there has been no similar plan in Guyana. Sugar in Guyana is steeped in partisan politics. Partisan politics in Guyana has racial overtones.
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), which closed the La Bonne Intent (LBI) and Diamond Estates, and sold the Diamond cane fields for housing projects, condemned the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition government when they moved to “right size” the ailing Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), and closed Rose Hall, Skeldon, Wales and Enmore Estates.
The then Opposition PPP/C said they “believe” the decision of the APNU+AFC government “is part of a scheme to impose hardships on persons who are perceived to be supporters of the PPP.” Wales, which was the poorest performing of all the estates, was at the time racking up a loss of $1.9 billion, and as part of the closure plan workers were to be transferred to the Uitvlugt Estate.
The PPP/C campaigned on the promise to reopen the estates the Coalition closed, not the ones they closed. Almost two years in government and spending more than $20 billion from the Consolidated Fund, GuySuCo still ails and estates remain unopened. Under the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Sasenarine Singh, the corporation has not only lowered its production target which it has not been able to meet but also is unable to re-open the estate.
Earlier this year a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between a subsidiary of Suriname-owned Rudisa Inc, Caribbean International Distributors Inc (CIDI) with Guyana’s Office for Investment (G-Invest) for the development of a US$35 million agro-processing facility at Enmore.
The Enmore Packaging Plant was leased for an oilfield joint venture. The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), the union that represents some of the workers in GuySuCo, was caught off guard. Responding to the news the Union said “We have seen, from media reports, that GuySuCo plans to operate the plant through some alternative arrangements. We, at this time, are seeking to learn of these arrangements and what the next steps will envisage.”
At the Enmore Martyrs observance event, on June 16, GAWU President, Seepaul Narine, called on President Irfaan Ali to fire GuySuCo’s CEO. A few days earlier President Ali met with supervisor/managerial staff of the corporation telling them it cannot be “business as usual anymore” and there must be sweeping changes. Noticeably absent from the head table and meeting was Sasenarine Singh. In the meantime, former sugar workers are anxiously awaiting the PPP/C’s promise to re-open the estates.