Closed estates could start producing sugar by “next year” – Mustapha

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While not identifying a specific date as to when the closed sugar estates will start functioning again, Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha, on Tuesday, hinted that all things being equal, those estates could start producing sugar sometime next year.

“The damage that was done there by the APNU/AFC, they were about to destroy the entire estates, what they did with Wales [Sugar Estate], they were trying to do with Enmore, Skeldon and Rose Hall, but due to the elections being held earlier, we won the elections; and we will open those estates,” Mustapha declared to the National Assembly.

“I can’t give you a specific date…I am hoping that by first or second crop next year, we should have sugar coming out of these factories,” Minister Mustapha posited.

The Minister made the disclosure following a heated exchange between himself and APNU/AFC Member of Parliament, Khemraj Ramjattan, during the consideration of the current and capital estimates in Budget 2020 for the Ministry of Agriculture.

Not long after the APNU/AFC Government took office in May 2015, it moved to close several of the sugar estates, putting thousands of workers on the breadline.

The PPP/C had campaigned on a promise to revitalise the sugar sector and to reemploy those persons who were fired by the Coalition.

In this year’s ‘mergency budget, the Government allocated $3 billion to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) for its recapitalisation and to commence the process of reopening the estates.

During today’s parliamentary session, Ramjattan, who has always been opposed to the reopening of the estates, questioned what the $3 billion will be used for and if any study was done to determine how much money it would take to reopen each of the estates.

Minister Mustapha responded by saying that part of the money will be used for recapitalisation of the estates because they are in a terrible state. He explained that for Enmore there is an estimated cost so far of $778 million; Rosehall, $710 million; and Skeldon, $711 million.

Mustapha added that the remainder of the total sum will go to the other estates to do capital works because those estates are grinding at around 40 to 50 percent “because of neglect over the last five years”.

“We had said we will revitalise sugar and we will reemploy Guyanese people who were dismissed by the previous Government,” Mustapha told the House.

Mr Ramjattan then interjected saying; “You don’t do budgeting like that, whenever there is a capital expenditure like that, this massive sum, you must have what is called a project profile.”

The Minister responded by saying that there were several studies done by various organisations before.

Mustapha noted that currently technical teams are on the estates right now and are working to determine what is need to have the estates reopened.

“We will have to do a lot of work, a number of equipment was sold out at cheap prices to friends and families,” he expressed.