The Foreign Affairs Minister of Guatemala, Mario Adolfo Búcaro Flores, will be leading a delegation to Georgetown later this month to further collaborate with the Guyana Government in a number of areas, including agriculture.
Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said its subject Minister, Hugh Todd, and his Guatemalan counterpart on Wednesday engaged in a “teleconference to discuss regional and hemispheric priorities.”
Following the meeting, Minister Todd told Guyana Times, when contacted, that the engagement was a follow-up to the initiatives that the two Governments have agreed to work on together. These, he noted, include agriculture and the establishment of a Guatemalan Embassy in Georgetown.
According to Todd, Minister Flores and his team are expected sometime this month.
“So, we expect a visit shortly by a team headed by the [Guatemalan] Foreign Minister himself… They’re bringing a team which will be comprised of the persons who are meant to be looking at the establishment of the Embassy here,” the Guyanese Minister related.
Todd explained that the Guatemalan officials have gone a far way with respect to the establishment of their diplomatic office here.
With regards to the agriculture sector, the Foreign Affairs Minister said, “…they’re bringing a team to look at agriculture in the broadest term, and we can actually narrow down those areas.”
The Minister noted that the two countries are talking about collaboration in a number of areas within the agriculture sector, including sugar. In fact, during a press conference back in January, President Dr Irfaan Ali had disclosed that Guatemala is among several countries that are interested in helping Guyana to return its sugar industry to profitability.
“In March, Guatemala is establishing their embassy here; a full presence here. And they’re also very interested in supporting us in terms of sugar and GuySuCo,” President Ali explained as he underscored the need for bringing technical experts into GuySuCo.
Guatemala is the second-largest exporter of sugar in Latin America, and the fifth-largest exporter in the world. With Guatemala being a sugar producer in its own right, it can provide technical expertise to GuySuCo.
“In relation to GuySuCo, we have to bring in technical expertise,” he declared.
“We’ve been open to Private Sector involvement, and any Private Sector involvement we’ve had expressions of interest, but now we have to work on getting the technical capability to support our local management team to push this company faster into profitability. Guatemala is also interested in this,” he said.
The former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government had closed the Wales Sugar Estate in 2016, and subsequently shut down the Enmore, Rose Hall, and Skeldon Estates. This resulted in thousands of jobs being lost, and only Uitvlugt, Blairmont and Albion Estates being in operation.
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) had promised on the campaign trail to reopen these estates, and within weeks of being in office, had taken steps in this direction. This included the Administration inviting Expressions of Interest (EoIs) from investors.
According to the invitation for EoIs, “A joint venture, partnerships, or a leasing arrangement on the now reopened vested sugar estates at Enmore, Rose Hall and Skeldon, and also on the operational sugar estates at Uitvlugt, Blairmont and Albion…” were being sought.
The notice invited “…interests from the Private Sector to participate in different forms in the ownership or operations of GuySuCo.”
After taking office in 2020, the (PPP/C) Government had also announced, in the Emergency Budget presented in September 2020, that some $5 billion would be injected into the sugar industry for the phased reopening of the closed estates. GuySuCo was allocated a further $2 billion in Budget 2021 by the PPP/C Government for capital works to be undertaken at the various estates to help in the turnaround of the sugar industry.
Last year, GuySuCo received $1 billion in supplementary funding from the Government. In budget 2023, another $4 billion has been allocated.
According to Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh in his budget speech, the Government remains committed to the revitalisation and restructuring of the sugar industry to support a diversified and modernised sector, ensuring its sustainability and economic viability.