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EU wants budget support funds spent on sugar industry

Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh and EU Ambassador Robert Kopecky at Thursday’s signing ceremony.

The government and the European Union on Thursday signed an agreement which would see some 23.35 million euros coming Guyana’s way as part of EU support in the wake of the removal of the preferential status previously enjoyed by African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) sugar producers in EU markets.

The financing is the penultimate one in what was a deal started in 2006 – the Guyana Annual Action Programme – to buttress the sugar industry from the expected fallout from the removal of the Sugar Protocol.

To date the EU has provided some 91.5M euros as sector policy budget support. Asked whether they were satisfied with how that money had been spent EU Delegation Head Robert Kopecky said they wish to see more of the money going towards the sugar industry.

He noted that in the beginning they were operating under different circumstances with the funds meant to mitigate the effects of the removal of the preferential markets.

“I understand that some money has been invested in related things like education, social cohesion et cetera. But still with the not growing sugar industry… we’ve been consulting each other saying this is probably not the way to continue for guaranteeing the sustainability of the industry in the future. It must be more targetted to the industry itself,” Ambassador Kopecky said.

He highlighted conversion of land, mechanisation, private farmers’ support and investment in pumps and drainage as areas in which they would like to see the money spent.

Kopecky added that with this year’s tranche and the next one he believed that they could still do good in the industry once the money was fully utilised.

The APNU at a news conference earlier in the day had said that it was “a mystery” why the EU funds were not being dedicated to the sugar industry despite the recent pronouncement from President Donald Ramotar that the industry was near a crisis state.

The Guyana Sugar Corporation produced 47,000 tons during the first crop for this year, 24,000 short of its target. The company hopes produce 240,000 tons this year, a target experts say is a tall order.