Gov’t invites Opposition, Unions to high-level sugar diversification meeting for saturday

Last Updated on Thursday, 29 December 2016, 17:15 by Derwayne Wills

Pushing forward with the agenda to diversify, a group of Ministers, including State Minister Joseph Harmon and Agriculture Minister Noel Holder, will meet with the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP), and some named trade unions to discuss the way forward for Guyana’s ailing sugar industry.

Diversification work has already started at the Wales Estate which ended sugar production a few days ago. “Workers from Wales Estate would be offered jobs at that location” as part of a Rice paddy production project which has already commenced, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder told the press corps today in his ministry’s boardroom.

There was no indication however as to how many workers would be invited into that particular project.

The high-level meeting on saturday would see the involvement of the Guyana Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU), the Guyana Labour Union (GLU), as well as the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE).

Invitations to the Opposition PPP were facilitated by State Minister Joseph Harmon, according to Minister Holder. Demerara Waves News Online reached out to Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo for comment, but no response has been forthcoming.

Other ministers to attend include Social Protection Minister Volda Lawrence; Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan; and Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman.

Outside of the proposed rice project, Minister Holder said an aquaculture project is also being examined. Senior GUYSUCO official, Paul Bhim, confirmed that a pre-feasibility study was done on the aquaculture project and an official feasibility study is to be expected.

“Because the aquaculture project hasn’t been finalised as yet because of the requirement of labour and also the rice project will occupy some 220 acres of land,” Bhim said, adding, “there is still some 60 acres to be ploughed.”

Bhim said a provisional estimate shows some 100 employees would be absorbed into the diversification project.

Minister Holder said if nothing is done about GUYSUCO’s current modus operandi, $18B would be required in 2017 and a further $21B in 2018. “It doesn’t get any better going forward so something has to be done,” he said.