EYEWITNESS: Going backwards…

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…in sugar

Those who thought your Eyewitness might’ve been a bit over the top when he predicted the remaining three sugar estates will end up being shuttered, should consider the report that they fell short of achieving even their modest first crop target of 36,000 tonnes. And this, in the face of Albion, Blairmont and Uitvlugt being adjudged as the best in the industry and capable of bringing down the cost of production that had skyrocketed to over US$.40/lb when world market prices were hovering around US$.12/lb.

That Albion, always the most efficient estate, took another week’s production and still couldn’t reach its target, is an ominous sign. Similarly, Blairmont’s failing to meet its modest target after an extra THREE weeks! What this means is the cost of the sugar produced is even HIGHER than the old, unacceptable costs. The rump sugar industry is fast going backwards – and approaching the abyss of no return. No end to subsidies!

We once hear that absenteeism of cane cutters (imagine the powers-that-be thinking that calling them “cane harvesters”, would motivate them!!) contributed to the shortfall. So why is this news?? Absenteeism in ALL the estates has been endemic for the past decade: exactly what was done to bring them back in the fields?? Closing the other estates?? If the Wales cane cutters refused to move to Uitvlugt to work, why would, say, Rose Hall workers go to Blairmont or Skeldon to Albion??

The unilateral closure of the four estates by the PNC Government signalled to the workers on the remaining estates they were expendable…and therefore it’s not surprisingly they would’ve begun hedging their bets. The workers at the bottom of the work-chain frankly don’t give a damn that GuySuCo still doesn’t have a Board. But the managers and field superintendents would be affected since they’re virtually on their own.

Even in the best of times recently, the latter group were conspicuous by their absence from the fields – and with no one looking over their shoulder, it’s hooky time, baby!! Slavery and then indentured labour were introduced because sugar production demands labour be absolutely guaranteed during the harvesting season. Since your Eyewitness doesn’t think world opinion would approve us returning to those days, then it’s up to the powers-that-be at GuySuCo, to introduce INCENTIVES to get cane-cutters to come out.

And this is what this government isn’t prepared to do – even though the Desmond Hoyte administration in 1990 showed what wonders could be achieved by sweetening the pot. Nope! This government will say, sugar isn’t viable; close down the remaining estates, and then sell them off with the others for a song.

Of course, that’ll be AFTER the vigorish is passed under the table!!

…on child labour

Your Eyewitness notes a host of full-page ads by the Government trumpeting “World Day against Child Labour”. This is so hypocritical!! How can this PNC Government fire 7000 rural, agricultural workers – with no alternative employment in sight – and expect their families to survive without their children having to “labour”?? Does this PNC Government understand the nature of our rural economy? Even in the best of times, children of sugar workers have to perform all sorts of part-time labour in order for food to get on their table. Fishing, vegetable gardens, rearing chickens and sheep/goats, etc, is not child’s play – but in the rural areas, it’s certainly child’s work!!

But since Guyana has now graduated to a cash economy – light bills, phone bills etc – those “chores” of the rural children in the sugar belt will now be formalised as they’re forced to take paying jobs – full time or part time – in whatever openings there might be in local workshops etc.

But so what? Vengeance is mine, says the PNC!!

…on catfish/gilbaka

The PNC Government had since 2016 to address concerns by the US Food Safety Inspection Services (FSIS) on our export of catfish to the US. They still haven’t done so!
So what? Their constituency isn’t affected!!

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