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NICIL will be asked to return closed sugar estates to GuySuCo -Agriculture Minister

The Wales Sugar Factory, West Bank Demerara.

The National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), the holding company for government’s assets, will be asked to return the closed sugar estates to the state-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) which will be reopened after a review is done, Agriculture Minister Zulficar Mustapha said Tuesday.

“In terms of the timeframe for reopening the closed sugar estates, first of all GuySuCo does not have any assets presently. All the assets of GuySuCo were taken over by NICIL, so GuySuCo will have to own or get back these assets,” he told a news briefing. The sugar corporation still owns the three estates and factories at Albion and Blairmont in East Berbice and Uitvlugt in West Demerara.

The Agriculture Minister again promised that the Irfaan Ali administration would reopen the sugar estates at Skeldon and Rose Hall-Canje in Berbice, Enmore-Ogle in East Demerara and Wales in West Demerara after the estates and availability of the assets are examined. “Those estates that we’ll reopen, we’ll have to do a conditional survey to see what is in the factory, what is in the field because I understand, also, that GuySuCo has moved out some of the parts,” he said. In singling out Wales and Rose Hall-Canje estates, he said the survey would determine the cost of replacing equipment.

The David Granger administration had conducted an assessment of the closed sugar estates and a number of foreign and local investors had submitted proposals to take them over to get into sugarcane-based industries.

The Enmore Sugar Factory

Mr Mustapha said apart from the unknown cost to reopen the estates, GuySuCo needs funds to fix the factories and improve crop husbandry for the remaining ones.

He said government has to get sufficient information about a GYD$30 billion loan that NICIL had secured to revamp existing estates and return them to viability. For more than one year now, NICIL and GuySuCo had been at loggerheads over the sugar corporation’s access to funds from the loan.

NICIL had been asking for full accountability of the cash provided but GuySuCo had largely resisted, saying that it is an independent entity answerable to its Board of Directors and that there are audited financial statements. To date, GYD$10.2 billion has been disbursed to the sugar corporation.

Minister Mustapha said GuySuCo needs GYD$1.6 billion for the remainder of 2020. This includes money for wages and salaries for the remainder of this month. Under the previous administration during the electoral impasse, a request was made to NICIL for an amount of $1 billion, but only $550 million was approved.

He said at least $1 billion is required to cover operational expenses until the corporation begins receiving earnings in the second week of September.