- says diversification necessary to make industry profitable
Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) General Secretary, Mr. Seepaul Narine, along with other officials from that Union and the National Association for Agricultural Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE), today met with Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, to discuss several issues and areas of collaboration between Government and the Union, one of those being the reopening of the closed sugar estates.
During their discussion, Minister Mustapha indicated that Government remains committed to its manifesto promise of opening the estates.
“We are working assiduously to reopen the estates. There is a task force currently working to assess the current state of the closed estates. I’ve also engaged the Indian High Commissioner and he has expressed his Government’s willingness to assist with this. We recognize the economic and social benefits of having the estates open and we will be putting all of our efforts forward to ensure everyone who benefited from those estates will soon be able to enjoy those benefits once more,” Minister Mustapha said.
Mr. Seepaul Narine, openly welcomed the statements made by the honourable Minister, adding that diversification is needed if the industry to become profitable.
“I’m happy you spoke about your dialogue with the Indian Government because one of the things we can look at, in the future, is to engage the Indian government to acquire equipment to assemble factories at these estates. The factories do not have to be as big as the ones that were closed. In fact, the project can be more about making an entire complex, where Government can set up a distillery and explore the production other feasible things from the sugarcane like of animal feed, organic compost, etc. You can also look at the packaging, branding and marketing of molasses. There is a favourable market for it, especially in Europe, since people are cooking with cane-sugar molasses rather than cassreep. These are all ways in which the industry can diversify and become profitable,” Mr. Narine said.
Narine further advised that Government should explore areas like cogeneration and the use of the bagasse and other bi-products of sugar cane that are usually discarded in the production of sugar.
Minister Mustapha informed the officials that as a result of his meeting with the Indian High Commissioner, two technical officers from India will be coming to Guyana to assist government with the diversification process.
“As a matter of fact, I recently submitted the Terms of Reference (TOR) and they (the Indian Government) will be sending two specialists to assist with the re-organization of the industry. This is the first step. I’ve also discussed acquiring the equipment necessary to assemble factories at estates that were closed. Many of the factories were left as empty shells and in order for us to reopen those estates we need to replace all of the equipment. The High Commissioner was very interested and we will have further discussions on it soon,” Minister Mustapha said.
The Minister also assured the officials that he is looking forward to working with GAWU to revamp the entire sugar industry.
“Rest assured, I am willing to work with the Union. I need your help and guidance as stakeholders and together we will revamp the entire sugar industry. I think that we are in exciting times and with the vision we have, we can manage these estates and get people back to having gainful employment. The first goal is to ensure that we reopen, re-employ people and we come to a breakeven point,” Minister Mustapha said.
As it relates to issues of management in GuySuCo, Minister Mustapha assured the officials that the ‘top-heavy’ attitude and improper dissemination of information to workers will soon be a thing of the past.
Minister Mustapha also took the opportunity to congratulate Mr. Narine on his recent appointment as a Member of Parliament.
Also present at meeting were MoA Director General, Madanlall Ramraj; NAACIE and Federation of Independent Trade Union of Guyana (FITUG) General Secretary, Dawchan Nagasar; other officials from GAWU and NAACIE – Gordon Thomas, Rikhram Srikishen, Rickey Rambeer, Aslim Singh and Porandatt Narine.