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Guysuco should get out of sugar- APNU; GAWU wants studies done

APNU’s Joseph Harmon (left( and his coalition colleague, Tony Vieria

A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) Tony Vieria on Tuesday said the highly indebted and low-producing Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuco) should be significantly scaled down and the lands used for fish farming and cane-derived ethanol.

The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), however, wants studies to be first conducted about the prospects for those alternatives.

Vieria said that due to bad field conversion and poor mechanisation, sugar should be purchased only for export to the European Union (EU) and workers given jobs in aquaculture farms that would be less labour intensive. “It doesn’t mean to say that the sugar workers would not have a job because they could work in the aquaculture system and this is something that could bring wealth to the nation,” he told a news conference.

He reasoned that Guyana should get out of sugar because of a number of factors including heavy rainfall, the need for several tons of cane to yield one ton of sugar and long periods of transporting cane to the factory due to labour shortage.

Guyana, he suggested, should sell its locally-produced sugar to the European Union (EU) for US$700 per ton and import the sweetener for domestic consumption at US$200 per ton.

Vieria, a former senior staffer of Guysuco, said studies have shown that 300 acres of land can yield US$700 million gross annually from fish farming. “We could become one of the world’s biggest aquaculture producers and make more money than rice, bauxite and everything combined,” said APNU’s spokesman on sugar.

For Guyana to reap rich rewards from aquaculture, he said the country would have to team up with Ecuador- the largest producer in this part of the world- to benefit from its wealth of experience.

While Vieria recommended that Guyana plants sugar to produce ethanol, he said the country might have to phase out of cane planting altogether because the country would be unable to produce that bio-fuel competitively. “Actually, we are coming out of cane because even if we are doing ethanol we are not going to be a competitive producer,” he said, adding that Guyana would need to produce ethanol at the same price of gasoline.

But the President of GAWU, Komal Chand said the time has come to conduct in-depth studies to determine the future of the sugar industry. “We have to do the kind of studies- we have to see whether indeed sugar has lost its relevance,” he told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com). Chand said the studies would guide policymakers on how other ventures could complement sugar. At the same time, he maintained that that the sugar industry could be salvaged because the infrastructure such as factories, harvesters and land.

Guysuco’s sugar production target for this year has been set at 216,000. That’s after raking in only 187,000 tons in 2013- the lowest in 20 years- instead of the targeted 240,000 tons.

The corporation owes its creditorscreditors, including suppliers and banks, more than GUY$10 billion. At the same time, its annual wage and salary bill is more than 60 percent of revenue.