Blairmont Estate re-introduces mechanical harvesting, on track to meet first crop target

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The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) has re-introduced mechanical harvesting at the Blairmont Sugar Estate to boost the current manual operations, even as the factory is progressing satisfactorily towards achieving its first crop target of 150 tonnes of cane.

Estate Manager, Mr. Hutton Griffith, told the media on Tuesday that said the ‘3510 John Deere’ machine started working on Sunday and would be operating 10 hours every day. It would be harvesting about 35 tonnes of cane per hour, which is equivalent to 55 punts of canes per day.

The machine is currently operating on wide or broad beds (30-45-metres), which were designed to accommodate mechanical harvesters. The cutting equipment is capable of reaping both green and burnt canes, guaranteeing consistent cane supply to the factory.

“It’s very important because we have been having reduction in manual labour and therefore, we have a restriction in taking off our canes. So, increasing our capacity of bell loading and using the mechanical harvester, it is intended that we would achieve our complete harvesting programme,” Mr. Griffith said.

The Blairmont Estate requires 1,000 cane cutters to keep the factory grinding effectively. However, from the 810 persons employed as harvesters, only 70 per cent turned out to work up to last week, Mr. Griffith said.

“I envisaged that by the end of this week we will see more people coming back. I believe that once we achieve our first target the crop people would come back to us. What we realised is that a lot of people moved into the rice industry, oil and gas, and construction. This year, the company has reduced its target and we envisaged that this will bring workers back to the industry because they will be earning additional incentives,” the Manager said.

While the new mechanical operation supplements some 140 manual harvesters, the bell loader and the manual labour remain essential to the harvesting phase. This strategy increases the productivity of the harvester by 100 per cent, since the work load is doubled when cutting and loading, compared to the regular operations.

Mr. Hutton Griffith

The Blairmont Estate has over 5,808.1 hectares or 13,000 acres and is divided into two areas for cultivation. The Blairmont cultivation represents 55 per cent, while 45 per cent of the cultivation is being represented by Bath. About 55 per cent of the cultivation is ‘Dutch’ bed layout, 26 per cent is converted to ‘broad’ beds and five per cent of the cultivation is dubbed ‘English’ bed.

DPI witnessed the bell loader and manual harvesting operations on the ‘Dutch’ bed today. Bell loading is ideal for the ‘Dutch’ bed or ‘Dutch’ layout, which means that the cane beds run from the cross canal to another cross canal across the field. After harvesters cut the cane, making them into small bundles, the bell loaders would then transport the canes into the punts.

In the ‘English layout’ section, those beds run from the side line canal to the navigation canal. Another section of the cane field is called the ‘ridge and furrow’ which has smaller beds.

Mr. Griffith explained that if there is continued difficulty with labour, a portion of the ‘Dutch’ beds might have to be converted into mechanical layouts.

“What we are doing so far is to continue to convert the five per cent ‘English’ bed that we have into broad beds layout and with that, we intend to increase out capacity to do mechanical harvesting. With the mechanical harvesters, the bell loading capacity and the labour that we do have, we see ourselves achieving our targets and crop within the specified crop period,” the Manager said.

The factory is slated to harvest 150 tonnes of cane from over 2,116 hectares which is expected to produce an estimated 12,404 tonnes of sugar for first crop 2021.

“So far, the weather has been good to us and we are progressing satisfactorily towards achieving our targets. As we speak, we are on track to achieve this week’s target,” Mr Griffith said. Meanwhile, GuySuCo’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Sasenarine Singh, said the entity is taking every step to ensure it meets the 2021 production target of 97,420 metric tonnes of sugar. [Extracted and Modified from DPI]