The Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc. (GuySuCo) held a meeting on October 6, 2016 with a section of its Senior Management staff from across the Corporation to apprise participants of the current state of the sugar industry and to explore options going forward given the need to address the future well-being of the 17,000 employees and their families and the pre-requisite of a profitable business.
According to GuySuCo it was also a follow up to the meeting that was held on September 29, 2016 with the three Unions – Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) and the Guyana Labour Union (GLU) on the same topic.
Chief Executive Officer, Errol Hanoman, laid out the hard truth that the Corporation is in dire straits. He emphasized the need for a radical change in direction, for the Corporation, failing which the astronomical losses and cash deficits would continue. His message was clear “sugar on its own cannot survive; sugar as it is presently structured will not survive”.
The CEO stated that radical solutions must be implemented as a matter of urgency.
He told the managers that “the industry is in chronic loss making mode, it is in a chronic financial cash deficit mode and prices are trending down while costs are trending up.”
He further stated that, the “industry has effectively been contracting as a result of the acute shortage of funds, field infra-structure and the factories are in poor shape, agriculture yields (are) down and so is production.” The adversarial industrial relations environment has also contributed in no small measure.
The managers were challenged to think outside of the box in trying to find solutions.
Additionally, Mr. Hanoman noted that over the years resources have been diverted from the more productive estates to finance the poorly performing ones resulting in the good estates performing well below their potential.
In relation to the industry’s reality, the following were highlighted:financial losses of in excess of $10 billion per annum even if the requisite capital expenditure and working capital were to be found and the industry’s production rise to in excess of 300,0000 tonnes; Cash injections by Government over the past 15 months amounted to $21 billion; A further $3.5 billion has been requested for the remainder of the year; and If radical decisions are not made regarding the future over $18 billion and $21.4 billion would be required in each of the next two years.
The managers were asked to consider the following tough questions: Can the status quo of the Guyana sugar industry be maintained?Should the status quo be allowed to remain? A question to be considered in examining the solutions is could some of these funds be applied to converting sugar workers into farmers and entrepreneurs?
The managers were informed that the response to the Corporation’s harsh reality, has to be proactive and planned.
The Corporation noted that given the facts above which were also shared with the three Unions, it was disappointed to see in their joint release a fundamental misinterpretation of the Corporation’s data and message.
According to GuySuCo the Unions’ press release latched on to the production figure of 320,000 tonnes and completely ignored the dire financial projection which underpinned this figure.