President assures sugar workers’ livelihoods will be preserved

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 – seeking inclusive resolution to struggling industry

 Workers at the Wales sugar estate, West Bank Demerara are being assured that their well-being will be looked after as the APNU+AFC administration seeks a resolution through consultation to the sugar industry’s problems.

Government is expected to invest at least $10B in the industry this year. President David Granger, speaking to the media today, said his administration “is committed to a consultative process, and there is not going to be any action that is injurious or harmful to the interest of the working community.”

The coalition government has been heavily criticised for jeopardising sugar workers’ livelihood when the decision to merge the Wales and Uitvlugt sugar estates was taken.

President David Granger
President David Granger

However, President Granger assured that the workers are at the forefront of decisions being made in the sugar industry. “We will do everything necessary to preserve the well-being of the working people until a decision is taken with the opposition, with civil society, with the stakeholders about the future of the sugar industry,” President Granger explained.

With the imminent loss of preferential prices on the international market for Guyana’s sugar, government is seeking to diversify and rebrand the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).

The Wales factory is the oldest in the country and is relatively inefficient, whilst the Uitvlugt estate is currently working at about 50 percent efficiency. The merger of the two West Demerara estates will result in Uitvlugt working at 100% efficiency.

The merger is in keeping with government’s pursuit to diversify and make GuySuCo more efficient. The Government’s thrust to rebrand GuySuCo as an agricultural entity is hinged on the company being heavily dependent on government’s subventions and the imminent removal of preferential prices for sugar on the world market.

Agricultural workers at Wales have been offered employment at Uitvlugt where there is enough work for all of them, according to GuySuCo. Some of the workers have however opted for severance pay.

Admitting that sustaining the industry is costly to the nation, President Granger said he hopes to come to conclusion on the fate of the industry through a consultative process.

“We would like to come to a conclusion about the fate of the sugar industry, but this will be a decision that the Guyanese people will take. It’s not going to be arbitrary or unilateral.”

On Wednesday, the Government Information Agency (GINA) reported Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder saying that government is examining the feasibility of converting the Wales factory into plants that will process dairy products and fruit juices among other products.

The minister stated that the factory’s re-organisation will create opportunities for local farmers. He explained  that he foresees lands which will no longer be utilised for sugar cane cultivation being allocated to these farmers for the purposes of cattle rearing, and cultivation of various crops, which will be required for the operations of the juice plant.

He expressed satisfaction with what has been achieved with the estate because it presents “…an opportunity to convert the estate, into a model for other areas within the sugar industry’s diversification.”

Earlier this year, GuySuCo’s Chief Executive Officer, Errol Hanoman had explained that compared to the other estates, Wales was in the worst shape with 60% of its drainage and irrigation being rundown. Seventy-five (75) percent of its bridges were in a poor state, as well as cultivation. The factory is also old and in need of significant investment.

“Finding cash to refurbish Wales would mean further diversion from other estates to bring it back… were we to continue, Wales wouldn’t give us what we need, and we will run down the other estates,” Hanoman had explained. (GINA)

 

 

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