By Jomo Paul
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo says that at present Guyana’s sugar industry is pauperized but pledged that the APNU+AFC is looking to turn it around.
Nagamootoo made the pledge at the National Cane Farmers Conference on Friday August 13, which is being held at the Arthur Chung Conference Center. The Prime Minister in his speech underlined several of the priority areas for the new administration.
According to Nagamootoo, the government will place emphasis on strategic areas including labour and production costs which have proven to be troublesome for the industry.
“There are many shortfalls that affect the Corporation and as a government we are going to ensure they are adequately addressed and with a matter of urgency…these remain important if we are going to have a viable industry,” said the Prime Minister.
He also spoke of government’s plans to pursue other markets while maintaining that unlike sister CARICOM countries that abandoned sugar in difficult times, the APNU+AFC will not do so.
“The focus is to make sugar work. We have too many workers who stand to lose with the collapse of the industry; so it is no question that we have to make it work.
“Going ahead, we have to not only look at mechanism but new and improved varieties of sugar cane to increase productivity at the field level along with appropriate investments,” Nagamootoo stated.
“In the old days, it was called “King Sugar”. Later, it was re-named “Bitter Sugar”. Today, sugar is no longer king. It has been reduced to the state of a pauper, a beggar that lives off handouts from the state,” he also stated.
The Prime Minister called for the enactment of legislation to better protect private cane farmers. Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder touted several areas of diversification to help sustain the sugar cane industry.
These diversification options ranged from conducting fertilizing expeditions for rice farmers to the introduction of aquaculture in the sugar fields. According to Holder, selling services to the rice sector could rake in just about $13M for the sugar industry.
“I want to now encourage investors to let’s have a conversation on the economic activities available in the cane farming industry,” said Holder.
According to him, the government is prepared to offer duty free waivers to persons willing to invest.
“It must be recognized that the industry does not produce sugar alone, by products can be produced at every stage (of cane processing),” the Minister stated.
For an industry that directly employs over 16,000 persons and indirectly affects the lives of 66,000 Guyanese; the turn out at the conference was very slim with just about half of the seats at the conference vacant.