Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 January 2016, 21:33 by Denis Chabrol
The Wales sugar estate has been in a sinking economic state, and over the years, finances were shuttled from the estates which were performing to support that West Demerara estate.
This was made clear by Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), Errol Hanoman during a televised interview on the National Communications Network (NCN) Tuesday evening, hours after Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo vowed that his People’s Progressive Party (PPP) would do its best to force government to keep the estate and factory open. Government plans to close the estate and factory in October, 2016 and have sugar cane planted by private farmers transported to Uitvlugt Factory, West Coast Demerara.
Jagdeo said if a parliamentary debate on the Commission of Inquiry Report on GuySuco and bilateral talks with government fail, his party would likely take to the streets to pressure government into keeping all the estates open and not privatise the industry.
Now that the decision has been taken to close the estate which was projected to lose between $1.6 – $1.9 Billion this year, management is seeking to secure the employment of as many workers as possible. Additionally there are plans to reduce the current level of losses, and improve the efficiency of the other estates.
“In 2015, approximately 231,000 tonnes of sugar was produced and the likely losses acquired is an approximate $16B…we are looking to produce 240,000 tonnes, therefore our losses will be in the same vicinity of $16B,” Hanoman was quoted by the Government Information Agency (GINA) as saying.
He added that compared to the other estates, Wales is in the worst shape with 60% of its drainage and irrigation being rundown. Seventy-five (75) percent of its bridges is in a poor state, as well as cultivation. The factory is also old and in need of significant investment. Fifty (50) percent of the 3,356 hectares needs to be retilled and replanted and 50 percent of the navigation system is clogged up with weeds.
“Finding cash to refurbish Wales would mean further diversion from other estates to bring it back… were we to continue, Wales wouldn’t give us what we need, and we will run down the other estates,” Hanoman explained.
Such a situation if it were to be condoned would lead to the collapse of the entire industry in the country. Hence management made the decision to cease operations, he stated.
“This is not an overnight problem, it has been ongoing for some years, the problem has been growing over the past years… we’ve reached the stage where it’s going to cost too great and grave a price to fix it,” the CEO emphasised.
Yusuf Abdool, General Manager, Technical Services, GuySuCo indicated that of the estates, Wales is the smallest and it has a per hour capacity rating of 95 to 100 tonnes of cane.
“It’s old, with equipment over 100 years old… the steam generation equipment which is major for the operation of the industry and the cane preparation equipment are obsolete,” Abdool said.
He opined that to upgrade Wales would require tremendous investment because all the equipment have to be replaced, if it is to achieve the reliability expected.
“Last crop we averaged 85 percent… we had significant boiler problems, we had to replace tubes, four days production was lost to repair the boilers. Poor steam generation meant we had to utilise more diesel engines affecting cost, we also had to use more wood which damaged the boiler system,” Abdool said.
Meanwhile Raymond Sangster Manager, Agricultural Services said the yield of 9,000 tonnes of sugar from the available hectares indicates that it is uneconomical to keep Wales estate operational.
The Ministry of Agriculture yesterday issued a statement in which it stated that the Wales estate would be closed by the end of the second crop for 2016.