By Kristen Macklingam, INews reporter
The APNU/AFC coalition is proceeding to stick to plans it had made while in Opposition to have sugar factories/estates shut down despite public outcries against such a move and the Wales, West Bank Demerara location has been earmarked as the first to go.
The Wales Sugar Factory and estate is one of the oldest located in the country and still functional but is operating at a huge loss so the relevant authorities opine it should be closed down.
Plans are afoot to have these workers receive their benefits and severance pay, a source stated.
Meanwhile, hundreds of sugar workers and their families are slated to be directly affected as their only means of survival and earning a livelihood will no longer exist.
INews understands that in the phasing-out process the sugar canes at Wales will have to be transported via tractor/trailers to the Uitvlugt factory on the West Coast of Demerara.
LOGISTICS AND COST
For the canes to be transported, the sugar industry will have to expend huge sums since the distance between the two factories is great.
The old fashioned method of using punts to haul canes will not be applicable in this situation since the Boerasiri conservancy does not have a direct link between the Wales and Uitvlugt estates.
This means that the only means of transportation would be tractor/trailer which carries only a limited amount of cane per trip, thus will prove to be a very costly venture.
Meanwhile, the already crippled sugar industry would continue to suffer ‘blows’ as monies would have to be found to pay for this process as well as to pay workers severance who would no longer be employed at Wales Estate.
Meanwhile, it is understood that operations at the Uitvlugt factory are still facing challenges.
At this time it is unclear whether it can handle double the production it would be required to facilitate with the canes from Wales.
2015 SUGAR COI REPORT
It is important to note that this CoI report which is supposed to pave the way forward for Guyana’s flailing sugar industry did include the possibility of closing some sugar estates.
Such a suggestion was met with intense debates and prolonged discussions which saw the majority of Commissioners holding firm to the position that there should be no closure of estates at this time. Although the administration has been in receipt of this CoI report it is yet to pronounce on the recommendations and other matters highlighted therein.
However, the APNU/AFC government has already begun preparations for the closing down of the Wales Estate.
Meanwhile, it is expected that very soon management of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) will deliver the news to those at the Wales estate and factory that they will be displaced.
When the APNU/AFC coalition had been the main Opposition party in 2015 it had trumpeted that should it gain power following the May 11 elections it would close down GuySuCo.
However, after former President Donald Ramotar announced that Guyana cannot afford to close the sugar estates, while pointing out some of the serious adverse effects of such a move, then Presidential Candidate for the APNU David Granger told his supporters that “sugar is too big to fail”.
He assured that should he be elected President he would not close down sugar.
Additionally Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo had also told supporters then on the campaign trails that the sugar industry will not be closed if the coalition won at the May 11 poll.
However, on Arrival Day last year, Nagamootoo went a little further, saying they will close the sugar industry and outlined what should happen after its closure.
“Our ancestors worked very hard and today we still have their descendants on the sugar estate working very hard and of course they deserve to reap the contributions made by their ancestors and they don’t need to be afraid that the factory may be closed and that they may be out of jobs. They need to be guaranteed that even if there is factory closure on the sugar estates that the land must first go to the sugar workers. Let them choose if they want to grow cane on it, let them choose if they want to rear fish on it or they want to rear cattle on it. The land belongs to the ancestors of our Indian foreparents who worked in the sugar industry…” Nagamootoo had said to the surprise of many who were in attendance.
However, at present it is unclear as to what the administration has in store for the lands and factory at Wales following its closure which is set to be announced soon.