In an effort to make sugar production in Guyana efficient, keep workers employed and the sugar industry afloat, the government through the Ministry of Agriculture, has taken several steps to revitalize GuySuCo. During a meeting with representatives of the Region Three Chamber of Commerce, Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder, was able to clear up a number of issues that farmers in the region were facing.
The Region Three Chamber of Commerce had requested the meeting having held discussions with the La Retraite Cane Farmers Association about their concerns on the continuation of sugar cane farming at Wales and alternative agricultural activities after the closure of the Wales Factory. The group also expressed interest in developing a better understanding of the alternative agricultural activities which are being explored by GuySuCo.
Given that GuySuCo continues to operate at a loss because of the world market price for sugar, a macro approach had to be taken with relation to the Wales Estate. Over the years, government has been forced to plug billions of dollars into a sector that formerly contributed funds to the treasury. Evidently, this has had a clear effect on the economy as sectors like infrastructure, health, education and public servants wages and salaries etc would be under pressure as these sectors are dependent on government funding.
With government’s decision to close the factory at Wales and merge the Wales and Uitvlugt estates, there is hope that the Uitvlugt factory will now be able to operate at 100% capacity.
During the meeting, Minister Holder pointed to the fact GuySuCo is currently involved in a number of feasibility studies that will be able to help government decide on the best mix of activities to ensure the economic viability of the Wales Estate, in particular and GuySuCo in general.
These studies are being conducted in the areas of cattle rearing for dairy purposes, orchard crop cultivation, aquaculture, etc. and are expected to be completed by the middle of August of this year. One of the companies carrying out the feasibility studies is AquaSol, Inc… This is a United States based aquaculture consulting company that provides expert opinions, technology transfer, and aquaculture project management services to new and existing aquaculture projects worldwide.
Concerns were also raised about the increased transportation cost farmers would have to endure to transport their cane to the Uitvlugt Estate. Minister Holder, however, pointed out that 60% of the farmers’ cane is closer to Uitvlugt than Wales; adding that measures are also being put in place to facilitate the transportation of canes via an all weather road linking the two estates. The farmers were also advised of the option of accepting lands which are closer to the Uitvlugt Estates.
“The truth of the matter is this; government cares about GuySuCo. We want to see GuySuCo survive and in order to do so some very hard decisions have to be made.” Minister Holder stated while pointing to the fact that both the Wales and Uitvlugt factories are currently operating at 50% capacity.
Minister Holder further stressed the fact that the Wales Estate is not being closed. “We are still seeing and reading in the media that the Wales Estate is being closed. The Wales Estate is not being closed. The estate is being merged with the Uitvlugt Estate. However, the sugar factory that operates at the Wales Estate is being closed.” Minister Holder stated. This decision, he added, was also considered by the previous government given the present state of the industry.
Additionally, the Minister noted that the discontinuation of the previous attempts at diversification at GuySuCo was not due to failure of the projects rather, the focus at that time was essentially, with the contracting of Booker Tate as consultant, to prepare the industry for privatization in keeping with IMP dictate under the Hoyte Administration. This decision was overturned by the post 1992 PPP/C Administration.
The six member delegation was led by Mr. Ramesh Sugrim, President of the Region Three Chamber of Commerce.