Last Updated on Monday, 11 April 2022, 15:58 by Denis Chabrol
Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo on Monday announced that the State-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) would reduce sugar production in Skeldon, Corentyne but would facilitate private cane farming and assign some of the estate lands to shrimp and hemp production.
Addressing residents at Line Path, Skeldon, Corentyne, he said 400 of the 1,700 retrenched persons at Skeldon Estate have been rehired temporarily . “We have had a very, very hard time reopening here and generating jobs,” he said.
In outlining plans for the ailing industry, Mr. Jagdeo said sugar production would be scaled back. “We are going to return to some sugar production but on a smaller scale,” he said. He said some of the lands would be assigned to “high-end” aquaculture. “In Berbice, we see a major potential to grow shrimp for export and so we’re working on a big project, not just to grow the shrimp but process it here in Berbice,” he said. Mr. Jagdeo said that would be separate from the swamp shrimp project which government is spearheading to increase production from 200,000 kilogrammes to 1 million kilogrammes.
With the expected passage of legislation to govern hemp production, he said that would open up another revenue and employment-generating activity in Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) and Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Upper Berbice). “It’s very, very expensive and we have the right soil in these areas…to grow the hemp and to get a major investor to buy it from the farmers,” he said. In that regard, Mr. Jagdeo said some of the GUYSUCO lands might have to be split up to be given to the farmers along with some support.
Touching specifically on sugar, he said the almost 700 private cane farmers have 12,000 acres of land that they could “put back into production if they get the support.” Mr. Jagdeo said government would be exploring ways of supporting them to get back into sugarcane, or rice and other crops and possibly extending a road to Orealla as part of plan that could see the creation of 1,000 jobs.
While in opposition, the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) had promised to reopen the sugar estates that had been shut by the David Granger-led administration. So far, 600 workers have been reemployed at the Rose Hall-Canje estate and the sugar packaging plant w0uld be shifted from Enmore to Blairmont and Albion to facilitate an oil-sector related machine shop. He said “we have had a difficult time cultivating the fields” at Rose Hall because several tractors and other equipment have not arrived due to COVID-19 related logistics problems. The Vice President said government was eyeing the possibility of bringing “private investors” at Rose Hall-Canje to increase the production and “keep sugar going there.”
Mr. Jagdeo said government would be building an Industrial Estate at Foulis, East Coast Demerara and is forecast to employ more than 3,000 persons, much more than 700 persons who had been laid off from the Enmore Estate.
He said the Wales Estate could not be reopened because the previous government had shut down the factory and sold it as scrap.
Back in 2017, the A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) had shut down several sugar estates and laid off more than 7,000 jobs, saying that the loss-making industry had been a drain on the National Treasury.