The regime’s deaf and blind position on sugar

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(Following is an opinion piece written by former President Donald Ramotar)

The Chairman of GUYSUCO’s Board of Directors, Dr Clive Thomas, in Sunday’s Kaieteur News spoke about how well the industry performed in 2015. The entire government body has been making statements about how good the second crop was.

Dr Thomas mentioned that the punt dumper at Skeldon estate works very well. This is true since a lot of work was done on it.

Former President, Donald Ramotar
Former President, Donald Ramotar

He also mentioned that new markets have been found in Italy for Guyana’s sugar.

Well, in my view, the Chairman made an excellent case for saving the industry and to prevent its closure. To his credit, he, as head of the Commission of Inquiry (COI), did not recommend closure. The gains made in 2015 were as a result of the work of the PPP/C government.

The old punt dumper was replaced in 2014 and commissioned in the beginning of the first crop in 2015. Indeed, GUYSUCO’s projection was that the punt dumper would have averaged 275 tonnes of cane per hour. That was possible, the fact that in some days, it was lifting 280 tonnes per hour.

The highly lauded achievements of the industry during the second crop of 2015 were due to the good management of Dr Raj Singh, the immediate past CEO), who ensured that every effort was made to see the canes planted.

That, of course, is the main factor in dealing with the cane supply chain.

The poor performance in the first crop and anticipated poor performance in the second crop of 2016 is due to the lack of canes in the fields. A clear managerial issue. The new Board should find out why not enough canes were planted. The talk about drought is just an excuse.

The Chairman also spoke about the new market in Italy.

GUYSUCO actually started selling sugar to Italy in 2013. In 2014, the quantity supplied was increased. It is good that GUYSUCO has kept this market.

The market in the US, where we are selling ‘Enmore Crystals,’ was launched in 2014. It is good that the new board has managed to hold onto this market as well.

I wish also to point out that in recognition of the fact that the European Union (EU) had ended the Sugar Protocol, which cost the industry billions; the EU has been compensating the industry. They are giving ACP sugar-producing countries some financial assistance to cushion the ending of the Sugar Protocol. Of course, they attached certain conditions on its disbursements.

Only last week, Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, received a cheque from the EU for Euro$24.4M (G$5.4B).

This was money which the PPP/C government had negotiated. Indeed, it was the PPP/C administration that met all the conditions for that money. It is intended to be pumped into the sugar industry.

It is hoped that the regime would give that money to GUYSUCO, which could help in staving off closures.

The fact that this year’s production is down is due to many factors. The contempt shown to the workers and their unions is one of them. No discussions, no involvement, just dictation is now the new style of management. I suppose this reflects Central Government’s administrative style.

Dr Raj Singh’s way of management was very different. He was very often found in the canefields and in the factories, learning from the real experts – the workers. His approach made a huge difference.

The decline in production is also due to the racial and political discrimination that is so rampant in the industry. Many managers with lifelong experiences in the industry, some of the best the industry had, were fired for no credible reason. The only reasonable conclusion was racial and political discrimination.

I had, in a previous article, spoken about this and listed the names of the persons dismissed – all of whom were Indo-Guyanese.

These are things that the Board should investigate. Racial discrimination will ruin the industry as it did to the whole country in an earlier PNC regime.

The regime has also gone on a hiring spree of high paying persons. Millions of dollars that the industry cannot afford are being shelled out to loyal PNC boys. Some of them cannot even walk up the steps. All of them had left the industry so long ago that their knowledge is almost obsolete. They can add no value.

The decisions being taken are very poor.

For instance, the Wales estate is one of the cheapest estate to operate. This estate is totally gravity drained. No money has to be spent on pumps and fuel. Moreover, forty percent of the canes grounded at that estate come from farmers.

The APNU+AFC regime should be told that closing sugar is a bigger mistake than the scrapping of the railways by an earlier PNC regime.

It will have major consequences on the workers, the sugar communities and on the economy as a whole.

It would also add to the growing unemployment and fuel even further the crime wave.

Dr Clive Thomas should look again at the plan left by the last GUYSUCO Board. The industry can be saved and could prosper.

Thomas is eminently qualified to so advise the regime. The problem is that it appears the Cabinet is made up of the deaf and blind when it comes to sugar.

 

 

 

 

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