The closure of the Rose Hall and Enmore Sugar Estates may take effect until next year because systems are not yet in place for the post-shutdown period, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon said.
“You cannot just bring something to an end and you don’t have something to take it up,” he stated during a post-cabinet press briefing on Thursday when asked about the yearend scheduled closures of the estates.
Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder had announced to the National Assembly in May 2017 that the estates will be closed by yearend and merged with the others as the government moves to diversify the troubled sugar industry and keep jobs.
A $130M Special Purpose Unit was subsequently established under the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL) to manage the divestment of assets under the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) including the estates and factories.
But Harmon explained that the Unit still needs to complete its work before any action is taking with regards to the estates.
“It may very well go into 2018 because the Special Purpose Unit (SPU) has work to be done,” the Minister stated.
Head of the Unit, Colvin Heath-London announced last month that four of the world’s leading financial services firms have put in bids to evaluate the assets of GuySuCo.
Health-London said that while the sugar industry should continue to form part of the country’s economic mix, how this happens will depend on a combination of options for the existing assets involved in sugar production.
The plan ahead, he noted, includes selling off some of GuySuCo’s assets and using what remains to get into other profitable enterprises. The Corporation is already engaged in the cultivation of rice on lands once used by the Wales Estate, where production has ceased.
Heath-London suggested that companies that are engaged in rum production, other beverage manufacturing, and food processing, would be ideal as potential operators of some of the current GuySuCo assets.
He said that while factories could be sold to potential operators and investors, lands will not be sold but could be leased so that they remain the property of the State.
By 2020, GuySuCo aims to reduce sugar production to just three factories and with 10, 000 workers, which would be 6,000 less workers than it currently has. Most of the Corporation’s revenues have gone to pay wages and salaries.
To fill in the gaps over the years, the Corporation has been bailed out by the State – an incredible $32 billion over the last three years alone.
The Corporation sees itself being able to produce 150, 000 tonnes of sugar annually in the next three years from the estates that would be kept in operation – namely Albion and Blairmont in Berbice and Uitvlugt, West Coast Demerara.
The operations at these factories would be able to meet the demands of markets locally, in the Caribbean and further afield. In addition to selling raw sugar, the Corporation is looking at value-added sugars and providing electricity to the national grid through co-generation.