By Fareeza Haniff
[www.inewsguyana.com] – The sugar industry in Guyana is one that tells of a story of concern, according to Agriculture Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy.
During his contribution to the budget debate in the National Assembly recently, the Minister said “Mr. Speaker, no one in this House can be more disappointed and distressed about the performance of GUYSUCO than I am.”
Despite the failures of the industry, the Agriculture Minister is convinced that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) will recover.
“It is not the first time that sugar is in distress, though. But GUYSUCO will recover and 2014 will mark a turning point in the performance of GUYSUCO. We have made major changes in management and we have identified the members of the new board that will take control from July 1st.”
After three years of failing to reach its targets, GUYSUCO is set to meet its 2014 target.
Dr Ramsammy told the House that in the first five weeks, GuySuCo has already reached 45,000 tonnes or an average of 9,000 tonnes per week.
The Agriculture Minister also accepted the fact that the multimillion dollar Skeldon Sugar Factory has not functioned to expectation.
“Nevertheless, we continue to make progress in sorting out the issues at Skeldon. For this first crop 2014, the factory has increased on the tons canes per hour processed.”
In this year’s budget, a total of $6B was allocated for GuySuCo. In this regard, Ramsammy said that this money is geared towards the mechanization drive of the industry.
“Land conversion costs will account for $1.1B with 2,500 hectares of land slated to be converted in 2014. Another $1B will be expended on the tillage and replanting program this year with 9,600 ha of land to be tilled and 9,224 ha to be planted. Investments will also be made in legume and flood fallowing programs to further enhance cane yields.”
The Corporation’s capital expenditure program will also benefit from the $6B. In the agriculture capital program investments will be made in all – weather roads in all cultivations to improve on accessibility and timeliness of cane delivery to factories.
It was also noted that a portion of the $6B will be spent on capital programs in the factories. These programs include replacing old and outdated pumps, improvement of factory automation at Albion, works on the two punt dumpers at Skeldon and the upgrade of boilers at Uitvlugt.
“Mr. Speaker I spoke of the two countries we seem to live in. Some of us see no future in sugar. But the Guyana I see is a Guyana in which sugar continues in the long term to be a sweet story.”