Delayed capital investments and industrial unrests coupled with mechanical failures and adverse weather were contributing factors that led the cash-strapped Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) to record a shortfall of 17,000 tonnes (sis) of sugar in its production target for 2019.
In a statement on Thursday, the sugar company reflected on its operations and performance over the past year. It was noted that a total of 92,246 tonnes (sis) of sugar was sold in the local, regional and international markets.
During last year, Albion, Blairmont and Uitvlugt Estates produced 46,651, 23,325 and 20,270 tonnes of sugar respectively. This, according to GuySuCo, represents an underachievement of 17,000 tonnes from the estimated Second Crop production objective.
“The shortfall has been the consequence of major mechanical failures in the Albion and Uitvlugt factories and from the latter half of October 2019, increasing industrial unrest in which Blairmont was most affected. The advent of adverse weather from the last week of November also influenced the progress of harvesting,” GuySuCo noted.
It went on to outline that the Second Crop production was closed on December 21, 2019, with 1981 hectares that could not be harvested and will be carried over to the First Crop of 2020. As a result of this, a further shortfall was recorded with in excess of 80,000 tonnes of cane from Albion; 60,000 tonnes of cane from Blairmont and 11,000 tonnes of cane from Uitvlugt were not harvested.
On a positive note, however, GuySuCo said the productivity of cane fields continued to improve as reflected by cane fields that exceeded the crop estimate on all estates.
According to GuySuCo, it was successful, with assistance from the Foreign Affairs Minister, last year in paving the way for the protection of white sugar produced in the Caribbean Community (Caricom) by securing the commitment of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) for the application of the Common External Tariff to all non-regional sugars.
To this end, the Corporation noted that the feasibility study for the Plantation White Sugar Project was completed and the project was found to be feasible. As such, it has commenced preparations to embark on this new venture in 2020.
“The addition of Plantation White Sugar and ‘A’ grade molasses for the production of genuine Demerara Rum to the Corporation’s line of value-added products will see an increase in revenues both regionally and internationally for the Corporation and all of Guyana,” it said.
However, the Plantation White Plant is supposed to Produce more than 50,000 tons of that form of White sugar beyond the present production level, which cannot even meet present market demand. As such, the question from analysts is whether “GUYSUCO will be able to increase overall production from the present anemic levels after the unilateral closure of four of seven estates and throwing 7000 workers into the unemployment lines.”
Going forward, GuySuCo anticipates the expansion of its operations this year with planned improvements in the fields and factories, as well as the commencement of preparatory works for the installation of a co-generation plant at Albion Estate. This is anticipated to support the supply of power to the East Berbice region.
GuySuCo has repeatedly cried out about lack of financing for its operations. However, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has stated that with the $30 billion bond it received in 2018, it should have been utilised to safeguard sugar production in Guyana and the jobs of the remaining thousands of sugar workers.
In the last four years, the coalition government, insisting that the sugar industry was bleeding the treasury, has closed four sugar estates, sending home over 7000 workers.
While the future of the country’s sugar industry remains uncertain, GAWU last month contended that any turnaround plan must include the reopening of those four closed estates.