The Guyana Agriculture and General Workers Union (GAWU) on Friday said sugar production this year will reach the lowest in history. Production for the current crop ends this weekend and so far the industry is seeing a shortfall of 15,000 tonnes.
General Secretary for GAWU, Seepaul Narine said on Friday that the sugar industry continues to play an important role despite it being “unconscionably minimized.”
Narine was speaking at the Union’s year end press conference in Georgetown.
“The industry up to now plays an indispensable role in contributions to the social and economic life in rural Guyana,” Narine said.
According to Narine, information received by the Union for sugar production this year shows that the set target is unlikely to be realized.
“There is likely to be a shortfall of sugar this year; the target has been 109, 706 tonnes and to date they have only achieved 93, 875 tonnes,” said Narine. This compares to last year’s production of 104, 207 tonnes.
GAWU said that the unreliability of the factories at Albion, Blairmont and Uitvlugt affected the second crop.
It was also highlighted that large quantities of canes earmarked to be harvested will be done in 2020.
At Albion and Uitvlugt estates over 1000 hectares of canes are expected to stand unharvested, while at Blairmont 615 acres are estimated to be left unharvested.
President for GAWU, Komal Chand said the factories are producing far less than they are capable of and according to him, it is not the worker’s fault.
“We have seen the numbers that the factories are not able to operate fully each week when you had the very good weather and reaping time was at its peak,” Chand said.
GAWU suggested that the breakdowns in the industry are as a result of a number of retired personnel who are being hired.
GAWU said that these persons may not be up for the responsibilities in the industry.
Meanwhile, Chand said the union fully supports the reopening of the closed sugar estates.
Chand said the government was to have the estates privatized, but there have been no updates in that process.
“When they closed the estates in 2017, they explained that would one estate privatized which was Skeldon, but out of public condemnation for their action and relentless struggle by the Union, they changed their position that they will privatize the three estates [Wales, Skeldon and Rose Hall],” Chand said.
The People’s Progressive Party has promised in its manifesto to reopen four closed sugar estates if re-elected to office in March 2020.
“The workers are looking forward to have their jobs again and we will have no difficulty to see with the workers that their jobs are available,” Chand said.
Chand noted that the workers who lost their jobs when the estates closed are still struggling to find jobs and if they do, they are being underpaid. He also explained that many of the workers will not be able to benefit from their earnings from the National Insurance Scheme.
“As they gain some employment for a short period the employer is not interested in deducting their dues,” Chand said.