Sugar shortage: Security forces to be engaged on smuggling reports

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Reports of sugar being smuggled outside of Guyana, which is inextricably linked to the current shortage experienced locally, is to be addressed as President Irfaan Ali intends to engage the security forces.

In recent weeks, shelves were scarce of sugar, leading to concerns from the population about the apparent shortage. Chief Executive Officer of GuySuCo, Sasenarine Singh alleged that the commodity was being smuggled outside of the country. This was specifically the case with packaged sugar produced in the country.

As he engaged media operatives on Tuesday, the Head of State said it can be a possibility and will be ventilated through engagement with the relevant security authorities.

“It can very well be. I don’t know where he got his information from but we will have to look at it. I’ll have the security forces look at it but it is a high possibility. There are shortages all around us and people are hunting supplies. Once people are hunting supplies, they find any way to get the supply out,” the President explained.

The Guyanese leader further pressed that the supply challenges is a limitation on the global stage, and has created a ripple effect on prices and materials to produce sugar. However, he contended that sugar prices have not increased substantially during this period of shortage.

“The world is facing supply challenges today, not only Guyana. This is a global problem. Price is a global problem. The price of fuel went up. The price of fertiliser went up. The cost of shipping went up. So, everything that you have to import to produce sugar, the cost goes up. There were difficulties in the industry… The price has not moved substantially from what I was told,” Ali relayed.

Coupled with such challenges, Ali said the heavy rainfall period has impacted the cutting of cane for processing, especially at the Uitvlugt Estate. However, the said sugar factory has been able to produce 2000 bags of sugar that will be distributed locally. On his Facebook page, the President had also shared earlier on Tuesday that there is no shortage of sugar presently.

“What we will do is ensure that the Guyana Marketing Corporation secure a lot of that (sugar) so that they can help in the distribution so there is no price gouging.”

A few days ago, the Uitvlugt Estate factory said it resumed its production to meet the demands of the local population. When the estate resumes sugar production at 1000 bags a day, the goal is to restart the sale of sugar to wholesalers. Moreover, it was noted that when drier weather prevails, the Uitvlugt factory can produce 2000 bags of sugar per day.

A senior GuySuCo official, when asked about the widespread reports of a sugar shortage last week, revealed that the sugar company found that some wholesalers have been buying the commodity in bulk and sending it to Venezuela, where it is sold for higher prices. It was disclosed that on June 5, 2022, some 2000 bags weighing 50kg each were shipped to the North West District (NWD) – a region which reportedly does not consume that much sugar.

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha has also warned that any supplier hoarding sugar in a bid to increase the price for the commodity would be dealt with accordingly.

Generally, as it relates to the supply crises and value chain affecting many countries, the President has contended that Government has done well to manage this situation and more so, to avoid inflation.

“We’ve been doing well managing it. I must say that Government has done everything. We have removed all the taxes from fuel, all the VAT. When people compare other countries that is adjusting it for a timeframe or just adjusting it, we have removed it completely. There is nothing. We have given out grants to vulnerable groups and we continue to look at innovative ways in which we can help,” the President asserted.

It was observed that the construction sector is one area under Government’s radar to formulate innovative solutions and measures.