Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder has disproved claims that Government does not care about the country’s sugar industry. He reiterated the Administration’s commitment to securing the future of the 17,000 people employed in the industry and their dependents.
During his presentation at the National Budget Debate today, Holder outlined that the future of the industry is more than just sugar, and that some current workers may find themselves becoming entrepreneurs in the near future. “Wales Estate is just the beginning of that process,” the Minister said.
Providing a glimpse of the plans for the merger of the West Demerara Estates (Wales and Uitvlugt) and the conversion of the Wales estate lands into a profitable non-sugar enterprise, Holder explained that an aquaculture feasibility study will shortly commence, since this would be a major profit generator providing reasonable employment.
Holder said that feasibility studies will shortly commence on other crops, and that work already done indicate a number of well-known crops can be successfully grown on the Wales soil. The establishment of a dairy/livestock business utilising in due course the existing factory building is on the cards while an all-weather road to connect the Wales estate to the Uitvlugt factory will be built.
Moreover, Minister Holder explained that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) has commenced discussions with workers at Wales to offer them alternative employment at Wales and Uitvlugt to minimise the anticipated redundancies at this time. Vacancies arising at Uitvlugt in the course of the year will only be filled by workers from Wales.
Additionally, Minister Holder noted that this year will see a marked decline in the cost of production at the East Demerara Estates as the proper integration of La Bonne Intention (LBI) and Enmore is completed.
“A concerted effort is being made to reinforce the technical skill levels with the assistance of very experienced former technical staff of GuySuCo. The sale of lands which are considered surplus to the industry’s requirements will recommence with the proceeds applied to reducing the corporation’s indebtedness to the banking system,” Minister Holder added.
The Skeldon cogeneration plant will be returned to GuySuCo and an increase in the tariff per KWh negotiated. The cost of services to third parties, including drainage and irrigation, will be recovered while value added production will be increased at Blairmont and Enmore factories.
The Minister said each sugar estate will continue to keep its expenditure, yields, recoveries and other related indicators under the microscope to ensure production and unit costs are significantly improved.