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No closure of sugar estates, but possibly greater private sector role

Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo.

Prime Minister, Moses Nagamoootoo says none of the cash-strapped Guyana Sugar Corporation’s (Guysuco) estates would be closed, and hinted that there could be a greater role for the private sector in the industry.

Based on his reading of the Sugar Industry Commission of Inquiry’s report, he said definitively that none of the seven estates would be shut down.

“I can say, for sure, that no recommendation has been made for the closure of any of the estates. As far as I know all estates are open and will be operative and so there is cause for any reservations or any cause for alarm,” he said.

Asked whether there was any recommendation for Guysuco to be totally privatized, the Prime Minister declined to go into the “substance” of the report but was quick to point out that private sector participation in the industry was not new. “There is partial privatization because you have private cane farmers so we are not talking about a situation where the industry is new to private operatives so it isn’t something that should be so strange as to consider it as an alien thought,” he said.

Nagamootoo said Cabinet would next Wednesday decide when it would meet in a special session to consider the Sugar Industry Commission of Inquiry report.

Wage and salary negotiations between Guysuco and the two unions representing more than 11,000 workers could begin only after government has considered the report, according to top officials  of the government and the corporation.

The Prime Minister observed that workers have opted to remain on the job rather than resume strike action to pressure government into talks for a nine percent increase in wages and salaries. “On the ground, there isn’t any great passion for a labour withdrawal at this time and I think the sugar workers are showing great understanding about the plight of the industry and not do to anything that will place it in further jeopardy,” he said.

The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has decided against another strike although Guysuco’s management has maintained that it would not start negotiations in the absence of a cabinet review of the Commission’s report.

Hoping that there would be no more industrial unrest for the next seven week, Guysuco expects to surpass its 2015 target of 227,000 tonnes of sugar.  So far, 116,227 tonnes of the sweetener have been produced for ythe second crop in addition to 81,146 tonnes from the first crop. Yet to be harvested are 450,000 that will produce another 38,000 tonnes of sugar.