Guyana hopes Guatemala can revive GUYSUCO; Ali says industry won’t be shuttered

Last Updated on Sunday, 6 March 2022, 18:19 by Denis Chabrol

President Irfaan Ali on Sunday said government was turning to Guatemala, Latin America’s second largest sugar producer, to revive the ailing Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) which he insisted would not be closed because of its socio-economic and financial importance.

“That is why Guatemala is also coming in to help us.  We are not going to reinvent the wheel so sugar is viable,” he said.

He said that in addition to technical support, the Guyana government wants a “twinning of opportunities” with Guatemala and best practices in management, operational and investment in the hope that they would lead to sustainability, job creation, expansion and viability of the sugar industry.

The President said Guatemala has 11 sugar mills, 251,000 hectares of sugarcane cultivation with a yield of 10.7 metric tonnes per hectare while Guyana has 49,000 hectares of sugarcane cultivation  with a yield of 4 to 5 tonnes per hectare.

Back in 2017,  the then David Granger-led administration had retrenched about 7,000 workers, closed several estates and set an annual target of 147,000. Since then, production had slumped to 103,000 tonnes in 2018; 92,246 tonnes in 2019; 57, 995 in 2021 and a 2022 target if 66,000 tonnes.

While the opposition has accused government of pumping billions of dollars into GUYSUCO, government has justified the spending saying that low production was due to severe floods.

Though the Enmore Estate, East Coast Demerara packaging plant would be moved to Skeldon, Corentyne to allow for the construction of oil sector-related machining shop, he said that was part of the readjustment to cater for industrialisation. “We said that we are building the sugar industry, we are revitalising the sugar industry but we are also cognisant of the fact that the new economy would be driven also by manufacturing, industrial development and aquaculture,” he said. The President explained that the new facility would be used to sustain jobs and expand opportunities  on the East Coast Demerara corridor which is linked to industrialisation and manufacturing.

Dr. Ali said two extra lines would be added to the packaging plant when it moves to Skeldon to increase efficiency, productivity and competitiveness as well as reaching government’s target of 50,000 jobs. “We are not selling out the assets. We are catalysing the assets,” he said.