– APNU+AFC’s own $100M COI showed closure of sugar estates not feasible
Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha says the Government intends to use the $5 billion allocated to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) to revamp the sector.
In his address during the ongoing Budget debates on Thursday, the Minister said the Coalition Government displaced over 7,000 sugar workers and their families and another 80,000 persons by extension, even though its own $100M inquiry was against it.
“Optimal use has to be made of the resources, especially where poverty is no stranger to the society. That was one of the recommendations. The other recommendation says: the COI does not recommend the closure of any estate at his time […] Financial support in the short-term level is needed and this should be provided by the Government on a timely basis,” Minister Mustapha said.
In 2017, the APNU+AFC Administration closed four sugar estates on the grounds that the estates were not profitable and should be downsized. The Minister said the then Government disregarded the advice of its own Commission of Inquiry and instead began its quest to “[punish] the sugar workers, their families, and their villages.”
The Minister added that the Government intends to address the distribution of prime sugar lands to “kith and kin of the Coalition” and equipment “sold at peppercorn prices to their friends and cronies.” A Commission is currently investigating these matters and .
“We’ll have to deal with that when it comes. The Commission, the joint assessment [team] that we have put on the ground will come with recommendations and some people will have to face the law for what they have done with GuySuCo,” Minister Mustapha said.
Over the next five years, GuySuCo will undergo an expansive transformation aimed at making it profitable again.
“In the next five years, starting with Budget 2020, we will implement measures to promote a diversified agriculture-based economy, create more jobs [and] increase the income of farmers,”
He added that this would be achieved by modernising and upgrading infrastructure, strengthening support services, robust marketing systems at local and international levels, and increasing Guyana’s market share by tapping into the CARICOM Region’s US$5B food import bill.