by Gary Eleazar
Guyana’s sugar industry is not being closed down but based on the financial and technical evidence to Cabinet regarding the state of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), tough decisions will have to be made in the near future.
This is according to Minister of State Joseph Harmon who today (April 20, 2017) reported that Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder has presented the draft white paper on the future of the sugar industry locally.
That white paper will be laid over in the National Assembly at its next sitting to facilitate a debate.
Reluctant to divulge details of the white paper ahead of the Parliamentary debate, Minister Harmon said among the submissions is the amalgamation of the industry’s resources and infrastructure in addition to the divestment of some other facilities.
President David Granger has already announced that Blairmont, Albion and Uitvlugt would be retained by the state-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation. No mention was made of Skeldon, Rose Hall, and Enmore.
He suggested, too, that lands can be made available to sugar workers to undertake some agro-based initiatives.
According to Minister Harmon, the white paper has emanated from numerous consultative sessions with stakeholders including the representative unions which provided suggestions that have since been incorporated into the white paper.
He pointed too to the Commission of Inquiry into the state of the industry that had been established by Head of State, President Granger.
Dismissing lamentations by the political opposition—the Peoples Progressive Party—and its leader, former president, Bharrat Jagdeo, Minister Harmon told media operatives the debate in the House will provide yet another opportunity at consultations before any firm decisions are taken on the future of the industry.
According to Harmon, “we have nothing from them other than talk…the white paper will be debated in National Assembly where the opposition will have an opportunity to go at it again.”
The Minister of State in speaking to the imminent debate on the GuySuCo white paper said, “this here is another attempt at engaging all stakeholders in an important decision that has to be made.” The Minister was adamant, “GuySuCo will still be in sugar…the sugar industry is not being closed down by government.” His assurance comes amid increasing agitation by the PPP-aligned Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) against the scaling down and possible closure of some operations. Wales Estate was closed late last year.
He reiterated however that based on financial and economic realities of the industry, tough decisions will have to be made.
Minister Harmon used the occasion to also draw reference to the Finance Minister’s lamentations on the state of the industry in his 2017 Budget presentation and the need for tens of billions of dollars to be plugged into the industry as support–$17B in 2017 alone.
Speaking to the main submissions in the white paper Minister Harmon said “the financial and technical evidence presented basically is saying it is feasible to amalgamate some factories.”
He said too, the white paper points to the requirement for divestment of some of the facilities and speaks to utilizing some of the facilities of these estates to invite sugar workers and cane farmers to undertake agro based activities on land to be made available.