While Government has held consultative talks with the relevant agencies and stakeholders, no decision has yet been made on the future of the ailing sugar industry.
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon on Friday said Government was seeking to give all stakeholders and relevant agencies a fair opportunity to peruse details of documents put forward regarding the future of the industry.
The meeting, held on December 31, 2016, saw representatives from the parliamentary Opposition, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE). Also present were representatives of various estates across the country.
The meeting, according to Harmon, came out of a Cabinet decision, after they would have considered some options and found that it was in the best interest that all stakeholders be part of a meaningful process of consultation. He said Government’s side provided information relating to the state of the industry and the possible options regarding the future of GuySuCo. The information was shared with the stakeholders and it was agreed that they be given an opportunity to peruse the documents and that another meeting would be held.
“I wanted to make it clear that Government has not arrived at a decision on the matter and we expect that through these negotiations and consultations, we would arrive at a decision that is in the best interest of everyone”.
Harmon said the sugar industry has been in existence for over a century and many families depend on it. He said those were all factors that could not be taken lightly.
“So it was important that all the relevant documents be shared with the stakeholders,” he said.
The Opposition team was led by General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Clement Rohee and included Irfaan Ali, Dharamkumar Seeraj and Juan Edghill. GAWU and NAACIE were represented by their heads, Komal Chand and Kenneth Joseph, respectively. Representatives from the various sugar estates including Wales, Albion, Skeldon, Enmore and Uitvlugt were also present.
The Government team was led by Vice President and Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan and included Minister of State, Joseph Harmon; Agriculture Minister Noel Holder; Social Protection Minister Volda Lawrence; Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman; Business Minister Dominic Gaskin and Minister within the Finance Ministry, Jaipaul Sharma.
The end-of-year consultations were held on the very day that sugar operations at Wales ceased.
GuySuCo’s Finance Director, Paul Bhim had explained that some 100 of 1000 workers were identified for the conversion plans and noted that ploughing of land and husbandry practices – weeding and cleaning of canals were being done. Bhim had also shut down claims of weed overgrowth at lands prepared by the Sugar Corporation, but Komal Chand acting on reports he received, noted that only 35 out of 480 acres, were levelled off.
The Wales Sugar Estate is the oldest of the country’s estates and the shutting down of sugar operations were only confirmed after the story broke in a Guyana Times report last year January.
The closure has affected over 1000 workers directly and thousands more in the Wales area and surrounding communities.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo met with the workers and their families on Wednesday last. At that meeting, the workers expressed frustration about the uncertainly of how their future will unfold, while calling for subsidies for water and electricity to ease their burden as a result of the closure of the factory.