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GuySuCo calls for release of funds as production falls to 90,000 tonnes

The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) on Thursday called for the release of much needed funds to halt a further decline of the state-owned industry that produced a mere 90,246 tonnes of sugar last year due to mechanical problems, bad weather and strikes.

“The industry will continue to face challenges to achieving reliability in the factories if operation capital investments continue to be delayed,” GuySuCo said in a statement.

No reference was made to the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited’s (NICIL) Special Purpose Unit (SPU) which has not released to GuySuCo the majority of the GYD$30 billion bond that government had secured to help revive the ailing sugar corporation. Between July, 2018 and April, 2019, a total of GYD$7,420,759,568 had been disbursed to GuySuCo.

NICIL-SPU has refused to disburse more funds until GuySuCo shows how the monies are being spent, but the sugar corporation’s contention is that its rules do not allow it to report to another agency and that all of its figures are available in its audited financial statements.

At the time of closing the Wales, Enmore-Ogle, Rose Hall-Canje and Skeldon estates in 2017, government had projected annual production at 147,000 tonnes.

But two years later, GuySuCo barely produced 90,246 tonnes of sugar —with Albion producing 46,651, Blairmont 23,325 and Uitvlugt 20,270. The Corporation blamed the poor production on “major mechanical failures in the Albion and Uitvlugt factories and from the latter half of October 2019, increasing industrial unrest in which Blairmont was most affected.”

The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has backed several strikes in the sugar belt for wages and salaries to be increased. No increases have been paid for the past two years, and government has said the Corporation must be run as a business instead of being bailed out by the national treasury.

Also cited for a further slump in sugar production was bad weather from the last week of November, resulting in fewer canes being harvested. GuySuCo said the second crop production was closed on December 21, 2019 with 1,981 hectares that could not be harvested and will be carried over to the first crop of 2020. GuySuCo said the shortfall represents more than 80,000 tonnes of cane from Albion, 60,000 tonnes from Blairmont and 11,000 tonnes from Uitvlugt that was not harvested.

On the brighter side, GuySuCo said ” productivity of cane fields continued to improve as reflected by cane yields that exceeded the crop estimate on all estates.” No comparative figures were provided to back this claim. During this year, the corporation says it “anticipates the expansion of its operations in the year 2020, with planned improvements in the fields and factories.”

GuySuCo said it joined with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to protect white sugar produced in the Caribbean Community (Caricom) by securing the commitment of regional trade ministerial council for importers of non-regional sugars to pay the Common External Tariff.

The corporation says it has begun preparations to embark on the production of Plantation white sugar in 2020 since a study shows that it is feasible. GuySuCo’s plans to produce ‘A’ grade molasses “for the production of genuine Demerara Rum to the corporation’s line of value-added products will see an increase in revenues both regionally and internationally for the Corporation and all of Guyana.”

Also on the cards for this year is the commencement of preparatory works for the installation of a cogeneration plant at Albion Estate to support supply of power to the East Berbice region.