23, 600 tonnes shortfall in sugar production; Meeting between Gov’t, Opposition, Union expected

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Several members of Cabinet are expected to meet with the Opposition Peoples’ Progressive Party (PPP) and workers union on Saturday (December 31, 2016) to discuss proposals for the future of the sugar industry.

The Ministers to be a part of the meeting are Ministers Volda Lawrence, Joseph Harmon, Raphael Trotman, Noel Holder and Khemraj Ramjattan.

During an end of year press conference on Thursday, Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder said cabinet is looking to meet with the opposition members and workers unions at the weekend to listen to their proposals.

“Cabinet would like to get the opposition onboard in final decision making with regards to the way forward. Now we have proposals, and we hope to discuss this with the opposition on Saturday. We have sent out invitations to them to come to a meeting in this room at 10 am on Saturday morning as well as GAWU (Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union), NAACIE (National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees) and I think the Guyana Labour Union that handles the sugar terminal, and have it fleshed out, our thoughts, get a feedback from them” Holder told media operatives.

Among issues to be discussed is the diversification of the Wales Estate and the way forward of the Skeldon Sugar factory.

In the relation to the closure of the Wales Estate, it was noted that approximately 100 workers are being absorbed into the diversification project while some will be transferred to the Uitvlugt sugar estate. The remainder will be paid a severance.

The rice project at Wales has commenced for the cultivation of seed paddy and planting is expected to commence in March 2017

On the other hand, it is believed that nothing can be done to improve the Skeldon Sugar factory.

The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) has failed to meet its targeted production for the year 2016. According to Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder, Sugar production for 2016 is expected to be just over 183, 000 tonnes.

He added that a significant number of canes have rolled over and will be harvested in the New Year. “An estimated 194,355 tonnes canes carried over to be harvested in 2017. The estimated sugar from the carry over canes is 14,060 tonnes.”

This was attributed to the shortage of skills, poor staff turnout and inclement weather.

“The combined effects of the poor state of the cultivation coupled with the impact of El Nino, resulted in a shortfall of 23,600 metric tonnes of sugar. Additionally, 2016 has been plagued by poor labour turnout, lack of spares, equipment shortages in particular cane punts, and factory breakdowns” the Minister said.

According to the Minister, sugar is not viable at this time and there is no way that it can become viable in the future as he outlined that $23B has been invested in the sector over the past months.

While he noted that several persons have expressed interest in buying the industry or various estates, he denied claims that the government is selling.

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