PPP Gov’t committed to reopening sugar estates – Agriculture Minister
Newly-appointed Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha on Thursday assured that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government will stick to its promise of reopening the sugar estates closed by the former APNU+AFC administration.
“These sugar estates will reopen,” Mustapha told the News Room.
The former Government closed the Rose Hall, Skeldon, Wales and Enmore sugar estates in a grand plan to restructure the sugar industry. As a result, thousands of sugar workers were fired in what was deemed the largest retrenchment in the local public and private sector.
The PPP promised to reopen the estates so those workers can return to work and provide for their families.
“We are standing by those commitments. We will look and try to open these sugar estates because the people in these country (rural) areas, they depend on these estates for their livelihood,” the new Agriculture Minister noted.
The Agriculture Minister started his tenure on Thursday by meeting with heads of agencies and other technical staff at the Ministry.
He told them that “within the last five years, we’ve seen extreme losses in the sugar industry. Four sugar estates were closed and over 7,500 persons were displaced. Thousands of other persons lost their livelihoods and the industry suffered damages that will take hard work and dedication to repair.”
“I am confident that this government will bring back the sugar industry, a promise made in the People’s Progressive Party Civic’s (PPP/C) manifesto,” Minister Mustapha said, according to a statement from the Ministry.
Meetings will soon be held with executives from various farmers’ groups, the Guyana Agriculture Workers’ Union (GAWU) and other stakeholders.
Mustapha served as the Chairman of Region Six where two of the now closed estates are located.
At the party’s rally in the county in January, the majority of its turnout placed their confidence in the party’s ability to resuscitate the industry which they depended on for decades.
Having been closed for years, many of the estates are left in a deplorable condition and some officials have stated that it is not a viable option to move ahead with their reopening.
But Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo had stated that the move is an “economically viable” one as he alluded to the estates’ contributions to taxes, the National Insurance Scheme, the maintenance of drainage and irrigation and people’s livelihoods.