The current sugar crop is being negatively affected by the prevailing dry conditions brought on by El Nino weather pattern.
Guyana Sugar Corporation’s (GuySuCo’s) Agriculture Services Manager, Raymond Sangster informed the Government Information Agency (GINA) that the current planting programme has been reduced by more than 50%.
This will negatively impact the 2017 crop yield, Sangster noted. “What you do in one year, you reap the benefits the following year,” he explained.
He said that the growth of the sugar cane has virtually stopped due to the dry weather. While under normal conditions canes will grow an average of one centimetre (cm) daily, the dry weather has resulted in the plants growing less than 0.2 cm. “This is less than 20% of the growth rate expected,” he stated.
This figure was obtained via the weekly monitoring conducted by field staff and technicians of the company.
Sangster described sugar, which has a high water content of about 80%, as a “water crop which has to be grown in a free draining environment.” He said that due to a lack of rainfall and a serious drop in the level of the conservancies, creeks and canals that are used to irrigate the crop, these factors will also contribute negatively to the first crop of 2017.
GuySuCo has implemented several measures to cope with the lack of water. The senior company official said that in addition to reducing its planting programme, the company has decided to recycle water as far as possible, “On estates like Albion and Rosehall, and we have started some at Enmore, and at Blairmont, we are putting back the drainage water into the navigation system. Areas that are not going to be used for the coming crop … we are isolating those areas. This is so we can reduce the spread of the water.”
It was further explained that an average of five to seven millimetres of water is lost daily through evaporation. This amount equates to around 1.5 inches per week and the intermittent rainfall isnot significant at all, Sangster informed.
The company has not yet reached the stage of revising production targets according to Sangster,, but if the conditions continue for the next three months, it would “definitely have an impact on the second half of this year’s crop.”
The current situation is being monitored on a daily basis and an evaluation will be done if the conditions become more critical, the Agriculture Services Manager emphasised.
Sangster is optimistic that the expected May/June rains, which have never failed, will come. Once this happens, he said that GuySuCo will benefit from this, with cane growth returning to normalcy. If however, this does not happen, then GuySuCo would be in ‘serious trouble’ he opined.