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Union concerned about effect of Estates’ closure on foreign exchange earnings

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Added to its major concern of several persons being pushed on the breadline, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has noted that the impending closure of a number of sugar Estates will also affect the country’s foreign exchange earnings.

The Government on Saturday (December 31, 2016) hosted a meeting with a team from the Opposition, GuySuCo, GAWU and NAACIE at the Ministry of the Agriculture to determine a way forward for the sugar industry. Among ideas floated at the meeting were the proposals to sell the Skeldon Estate, factory and co-generation facility, the possible sale of Enmore and the “merging” of others leaving the industry with Wales-Uitvlugt, Albion-Rose Hall and Blairmont and the stripping of drainage, health and activities that “have little or no direct connection with sugar.”

During an exclusive meeting with President of GAWU, Komal Chand on Tuesday, January 03, 2017, he outlined that “having the closure of estates, lesser sugar production, and even when you divest, the fact that those new owners would not necessarily bring back into Guyana, the foreign exchange that they will earn which is an important factor for our country to able to have garner foreign exchange.”

Further, he rubbished Government’s claim that the Skeldon Sugar Estate is not viable, noting that the fact that buyers have expressed interest in parts of the facility confirm its potential.

In relation to the closure of the Enmore Estate, which he describes as “rather surprising” because of the potential packaging plant located at the facility, GAWU’s President believes this proposal is just a “red herring” or distracting.

“We saw also they have the closure of the Enmore Estate which is rather surprising because you know the packaging plant is a significant asset of that estate…which is important in having a better price for sugar,” Chand said.

In relation to the Wales sugar Estate, Chand said workers are already being diverted to Uitvlugt and the diversification project since the last crop concluded.

The Union welcomes the consultation but noted that its outcome will prove its effectiveness.

Chairman of Saturday’s meeting, Vice President, Khemraj Ramjattan in an invited comment at the conclusion of the meeting, said that Cabinet took the decision at its last sitting, to have the consultations begin at the soonest possible time. Registering his satisfaction with this initial meeting, the Minister said that consultations are being conducted to ensure that the best interest of all stakeholders will be considered.

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