GAWU questions merit of calls for shift from sugar production to ethanol, aquaculture

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President of GAWU, Komal Chand
President of GAWU, Komal Chand

[www.inewsguyana.com] – The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) says it has noted recent statements by spokesmen of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) which have triggered a new round of debate on sugar and its future.

The Union said while a public discussion on the status and future of the industry is quite in order; it is concerned that jockeying for political advantages could very well affect a serious and comprehensive assessment.

“We are also most certainly concerned that proffered “solutions” may not be well thought out or how they will impact the lives and livelihood of our members or, indeed, all workers who rely on the industry” GAWU said in a statement.

The Union went onto state that is has taken note of what seems to be a contradictory stance taken by APNU’s Anthony Vieira who is now saying: “Actually, we are coming out of cane because even if we are doing ethanol we are not going to be a competitive producer”.

In an attempt to counter these claims the Union has asked: “why must we plunge into ethanol which would require capitalization and then back out of it shortly afterwards because it (ethanol) would not be competitive?”

On the subject of aquaculture, GAWU says it has heard such an idea before and believe, to some extent, it is being pursued in the country, however it also asks “why should the sugar industry be purposefully destroyed or drastically miniaturized and be replaced by aquaculture? We do not dispute that there is a place for aquaculture in our economy or its value, but this can and should go on without the destruction of sugar. There is scope in our country for this.”

GAWU says it is not unaware of the trials and trying times facing the sugar industry but noted that the on-going debate may be assisted if all be reminded of some salient points related to the industry in more recent times.

 

“We need to note that since the arbitrary thirty-six (36) per cent price cut in 2006 for our sugar sold to the European Union (EU), the industry’s challenges became real and challenging. It took almost a whole year before the EU Accompanying Measures came on board with the disbursement of support funds to the ACP sugar producing countries, Guyana being one” the statement noted, adding that “the toll of the price cut on the sugar industry was significant. Factories have been starved of important and costly components, certain field operations and infrastructural work have had to be shelved or only partly undertaken. This and other related factors saw lower sugar production and inadequate yields of canes per hectare.”

The Union further stated that it is their understanding that only a small portion of the total disbursements had been received by the sugar industry from the EU for the financing of the Enmore Packaging Plant and a few budgetary support, adding that it holds the view that all the disbursements ought to be fully released to the sugar industry even belatedly so that the industry’s capitalization and other field programmes will not continue to suffer and put a brake on the industry’s rejuvenation.

On this note GAWU renewed its call for the exclusive use of the EU disbursements to contribute to sugar’s recovery and also additional support.

The Union added that the appointment of a new Board of Directors with an able Chairman should no longer be procrastinated.

“In our public discourse, we should not downplay the fact that even at this time the industry continues to serve our country in a multifaceted way. It employs about 16,000 workers during its peak periods and also facilitates about 1,500 cane farmers.”

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