By Kurt Campbell
President Dr Irfaan Ali on Tuesday convened a meeting with the management of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) at State House to discuss its strategic direction.
There, the common thread of the President’s message was that the government remained serious about returning the sugar industry to viability.
The Head of State told approximately 180 managers and other senior officials that “it cannot be business as usual.”
Dr. Ali spoke of the need for them to be more effective, efficient, and results-driven in the ever-changing landscape.
In a subsequent telephone interview with the News Room, the President said, “it is critical for the management to understand that the government is serious about sugar. The industry has important socio-economic benefits to communities and the country.”
He said while the meeting dealt with addressing the strategic direction of GuySuCo, it also sought to reinforce the need to accelerate development in the industry towards improved productivity and a revitalised sector.
“Some of the things we spoke about were human resource management, increasing productivity, reducing downtime, accelerating cane planting and supporting the mechanisation,” Dr. Ali said.
Asked why the meeting was important now, Dr, Ali explained that it was in keeping with the government’s commitment to ensuring the success of the industry.
He said the government wanted to also review GuySuCo’s management’s progress in implementing measures to take the industry to viability.
“I re-inforced the need for a team approach to management and development of the industry and assessing targets and results against projections,” the Head of State told the News Room.
The President also listened to suggestions and concerns and deliberated on issues to find solutions.
Director-General of the Ministry of Agriculture, Madanlall Ramraj; Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Delma Nedd and Director of Projects at the Office of the President, Marcia Nadir-Sharma were also at the meeting.
The government has allocated an additional $6 billion in the 2022 budget to support GuySuCo’s ongoing investment in field and factory operations to turn around the industry with the reopening of estates pegged for this year.
Since returning to office in August 2020, the government provided operational and restructuring support to GuySuCo in the sum of $11 billion and also injected $600 million to assist with wages and salaries.
These interventions came following the closure of four sugar estates (Wales, Skeldon, Rose Hall, and Enmore) and the retrenchment of over 7,000 sugar workers by the previous APNU+AFC government.
Already, the government has reopened the Rose Hall Estate. In addition, over 1,300 persons have been reemployed and over 5,000 workers who were severed in 2016 and 2017 have each received cash grants of $250,000 in 2021.
In anticipation of improved production levels, GuySuCo is expected to be concentrating its marketing efforts on shifting from the low-value bulk-sugar markets to more bagged and packaged sugar products.
The government had previously said that there will be a significant reduction in dependency on government support by 2026.