National effort is needed to save the Sugar Industry

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Dear Editor,

I appeal to the Governing Authorities, represented by the Executive Government and the Parliamentary political parties; and to GUYSUCO, the recognised Trade Unions in the Sugar Industry, the Private Sector, the national trade union bodies, and other interested stakeholders and individuals to meet at high level National Consultations to confer in good faith on ways to save and revitalise the Sugar Industry of Guyana to make it a viable and profitable industry again, from the growing of sugar canes to the manufacturing of sugar and its by-products.

The Government, led by His Excellency David Granger, has a critical facilitating and enabling role to bring the relevant stakeholders together to arrive at national consensus to save the industry. It requires commitment, political maturity on all sides, and leadership to forge a mutually agreed way forward. This may also be a confidence building measure for developing high political trust, which can motivate discussions on other pressing matters of concern in the national interest and contributing to national unity.

It is well-known that the Sugar Industry has survived and provided the livelihood, and contributed massively to the development of our country for centuries. The industry was built and cultivated by the blood, sweat and tears of our forefathers, many martyrs during the degradation and inhumanity meted out to our forefathers of slavery and indentured labour.

Today, it is still the largest employer of thousands of workers, and support tens of thousands of people who depend directly or indirectly on the industry for their livelihood, and supports viable communities in and around the various sugar estates, including cane farmers and suppliers of various inputs for the industry.

The contributions of the Sugar Industry to the national treasury of foreign currencies over the years have been immense, and the industry is still a significant foreign currency earner. Many knowledgeable and experienced persons of the sugar industry are convinced that the industry can be saved and revived to profitability. This requires determination and the right decisions from the cultivation of sugar canes to producing sugar, and its potential for value added and other revenue earning ventures flowing from the Sugar Industry.

The Industry has the capacity to increase its production by at least one hundred thousand tons (100,000) of sugar annually which can turn around the industry. Why has sugar production dropped to 183,491 tons of sugar in 2016 from 231,076 tons in 2015, from 216,186 tons in 2014? It is to be noted that the industry produced 332,457 in 1976, 156,690 in 1991; 243,010 tons in 1992, and 321,438 tons in 1999 and declining to the 2016 level. What are the critical agricultural causes for the progressive decline in sugar cane cultivation and sugar output from the factories?

The Commission of Inquiry Report into the Guyana Sugar Corporation, October 2015, should be given serious consideration by the proposed national consultations on the way forward for this vital industry. Recent studies and the views and positions of various stakeholders should all be put on the table, and discussed to find a broad-based national consensus approach to restore the viability of the Sugar Industry

In this Centenary year of the end of indentureship, and continued existence of the Sugar Industry which employs thousands who continue to depend on earnings from the industry for their livelihood and that of their families and surrounding communities. It would be a noble and prudent act to save and revitalise the Sugar Industry.

Yours faithfully,
Samuel J. Goolsarran

 

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