Sugar Industry reduced to state of a “pauper, beggar”; PM promises to turn it around

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By Jomo Paul

National Cane Farmers Conference
National Cane Farmers Conference

[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.

Prime Minister,  Moses Nagamootoo
Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo

“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.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Sugar may not be quite dead as yet. But it is fairly crippled all over the world. Cane sugar is badly hit because of so many other sources of sugar and sweeteners. If Mr. Nagamootoo is really sincere and confident about bringing about permanent improvements to Guyana’s sugar industry, he should give an indication of how he intends to do this. Mere words and promises would not do. Healing, as in medicine, requires that we know the causes of the shortcomings and ailments. One has to be radical and go to the roots of the problems, a major one being price of the commodity on the world market which Guyana’s industry supplies. The days of preferential prices are over. Lower prices will more than likely not keep abreast with production costs. Higher production costs and lower revenues cannot sustain the cane sugar industry and provide a strong economic engine for development. Guyana needs to look into more agricultural diversification and less reliance on sugar. Can this government be bold enough to depart from this traditional reliance, like so many of the Caribbean countries have done? Oil seeds, other cereals like sorghum, millet and corn, fruits and food crops for an agro-processing industry are alternatives that could be looked into. Guyana should also look into utilizing higher lands for altitude crops. Many a subsistence crop could be scaled-up for export markets. The Agriculture Ministry should be leading a diversification thrust, and improvements in the agricultural sector, (and not Nagamootoo). Shouldn’t the latter be taking on some of the responsibilities Harmon is doing?

  2. Sugar is dead and so is the AFC and the coalition? There was nothing tangible that was done to stimulate the growth of the industry.The same PSC and the consumer association were the ones that prevented a major investment in the early stages of the joint venture with angostura. DDL took Guysuco to court a case that is still pending, the claim is that they have a first call on all molasses. Yesu said the other day Guysuco needs private management. How sinister and diabolical of a man who is revered as a business guru.
    I remember as a young graduate in Albion when the then Factory manager Bahadur told Brian Webb that with the sweetener industry maturing Guysuco needs to set up a back end refinery at Albion instead of a complex factory at Skeldon.I had no clue what he meant then i now respect his foresight and knowledge.
    Bahadur also told the meeting which included Knights that the marketing of molasses should be our business as it was been run unprofitably with Ian MDonald at the helm of marketing which led to the subsequent take over by Brain webb himself. I am putting my money on him if he is available.
    I learnt so much in that conversation which i reflect here.

    1. What was the business proposition to sell the co-generation plant when all and sundry knew that it was NICIL that imposed the rates in the PPA which was agreed to by the PM. Guysuco was deemed to fail financially with that venture.
    2. Guysuco challenges are so different, the ability to analyse and make business decision is so poor that it may be considered the hallmark of all of its problems.Talent management is so poorly constructed that it was only who certain individuals on the board saw as talented were deemed talented.
    That was reason why many good young guys fled including Bahadur.
    3. A mechanisation drive was started and to date no one can present figures to show the cost benefits.
    4. A third rated manager from BT is now made to run the industry, he has no clue on what are the drivers of productivity. He was literally fired by the PPP for not delivering on what he told bharat he could have done in the first year. WE are now recycling him.
    5. With crop husbandry the hall mark of agricultural productivity Guysuco has deemed that an ordinary person can run it . Agriculture is a science it requires brains to run it.
    6. With the price running as is and the cost as is Guysuco will have to continuously subsidise the farmers.

  3. “Go down Moses” – tell old Pharaoh, “Let my People go”. It Is Time for the Sugar Industry be lifted out of the quagmire that it has been in for decades now. Be as creative as possible; even if you have to part the Red Sea to get the sugar workers over to the Promised Land.

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