…but Holder says GuySuCo not answerable to Union for any of its financial ventures
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has stated that they were left out of the consultation on cultivating rice on the Wales Sugar Estate lands, and Agriculture Minister Noel Holder is firing back that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) Inc, does not need the Union’s opinion on any of its financial ventures.
Last week, the Corporation published an advertisement in the State-owned Guyana Chronicle inviting bids for clearing of 484 acres of land, out of 3000 acres, on the former sugar plots. GuySuCo stated that the land was “required to be cleared of all vegetation to facilitate laser land levelling for rice cultivation,” making it the first solid statement on the fate of the Estate.
GAWU indicated that they were surprised “to learn through a newspaper advertisement” that GuySuCo was seeking to pursue rice cultivation at the estate. However, both the Ministry and GuySuCo had announced that they were pursuing feasibility studies on rice, aqua-culture, citrus crops and dairy production on the cane lands.
Notably, however, the Union underscored that the Sugar Corporation had promised to keep the Union abreast with its ventures in Wales. “In spite of that commitment, GuySuCo did not even inform our Union or the workers about their plans, much less sharing their ideas and intentions and to solicit the GAWU’s contribution,” GAWU said in a statement.
GAWU said this “shunning” of the workers and the Union represents is another blunder of the management of the sugar entity and their advisors.
“Assuming there is a report from a study of growing rice at Wales, it is being treated as highly confidential at this time,” it added, noting that, “The least we expect from GuySuCo’s hierarchy is to provide the relevant essential information to its employees”.
GAWU questioned whether the rice venture is another instance of “GuySuCo being penny-wise and pound-foolish”.
Meanwhile, Holder defended the Corporation’s move to plant rice on the lands, affirming that GuySuCo was approached by the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) with the idea and that the board would be pumping the funds in the venture and not GuySuCo.
Nevertheless, he charged that the Corporation is not answerable to GAWU on any of its financial ventures.
“GuySuCo is there to manage the industry not GAWU. GAWU needs to be reminded that they are neither the employer nor a shareholder of GuySuCo and that they are not helping the situation,” he said, pointing out that if the Union continues along this path it will lead to the destruction of the industry.
Holder vowed that the Corporation is working in the interest of the workers to save the industry.
“GuySuCo is looking for economic ventures and this is one,” he argued.
Contrarily, GAWU contended that at this time, when world market prices are uneconomical, rice cultivation may very well have been “ill-considered”.
Moreover, GAWU stated that it is not to be ignored that contemporary rice cultivation is largely mechanised and thus such a project will only absorb a small fraction of those displaced sugar workers of Wales Estate who may wish to seek re-employment.
The Union contended further that over decades ago, the Corporation hastily implemented an ‘Other Crops Division’ of which rice cultivation was featured. That investment was costly and it was later abandoned after it was deemed unsustainable and unprofitable, it highlighted, adding that that as such, rice it is not feasible.
On the other hand, Holder stated that while he respects the Union’s opinion; neither GuySuCo nor the Ministry agree with it. “Rice prices might be low yes, but sugar is lower,” he highlighted.