The report of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the sugar industry is currently being discussed by the Special Parliamentary Select Committee on Economic Matters. This was stated by Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder during the Post-Cabinet Media briefing at the Ministry of the Presidency, today.
Dismissing a claim by the People’s Progressive Party’s (PPP’s) General Secretary Clement Rohee, that the report has been “rubbished”, Minister Holder reminded that the report was laid before the National Assembly and copies circulated to both sides of the House.
He said, the report is in the “public domain” and its tabling in Parliament meant that, “The country could come to a consensus”. The fact that the report is with the aforementioned committee, means that the members of the commission could be summoned to provide answers and explanations as to their findings.
The COI into the state of the local sugar industry was initiated weeks after the Coalition Government took office in May 2015. This decision was taken as it sought to ascertain the true nature of the industry’s economic and physical condition.
Meanwhile, Minister Holder said there was consultation with cane farmers prior to the decision to close the Wales sugar estate. He recalled that measures to improve the industry were among issues discussed with farmers at the National Cane Farmers’ Conference held in August of 2015, at the Arthur Chung Convention Center. Minister Holder reminded that the largest group of private farmers originated from the Wales, West Bank Demerara area. It was stated at that event that diversification of the sugar industry was critically needed for its revival and sustenance.
He added that with both Wales and Uitvlugt operating at 50 percent capacity; the decision to move canes to the latter was sound since it had more modern equipment and facilities. He said the goal is to have Uitvlugt operating at 95 percent efficiency and the 3,000 acres owned and cultivated by GuySuCo, at Wales will be left fallowed. “None of the farmers’ canes will be in jeopardy,” he reiterated.
In terms of transporting canes to Utivlugt for processing, the Minister said that using the canals and waterways appear to be the most efficient method of doing so. Since Wales farmers utilise tractors, trucks and trailers to move canes, the new method would be “more convenient”, Minister Holder said.
Nothing is happening to Wales before December 31, 2016, he further added, and a definite plan of action with regards transporting canes and employing some of the factory and administrative staff from Wales at Utivlugt will also be done before year- end.
It was reiterated that the move to close the Wales estate was simply aimed at improving GuySuCo’s efficiency. This quest for effectiveness, he reminded was also done under the previous administration when the decision was taken to close the Diamond and La Bonne Intention (LBI) factories.