The Uitvlugt Sugar Estate factory is gearing up to begin producing 1000 bags of sugar per day from this weekend – a move which is expected to bring some relief as citizens continue to complain of an apparent shortage of sugar on the local market, a situation which is driving up prices where the commodity remains available.
Citizens have been complaining of an apparent shortage of sugar on the local market, something which has persisted for some two months.
On social media, hundreds of persons have shared their experiences of a sugar shortage at their local shops, and in some cases, supermarkets.
“I just went to four shops and there was no sugar…ended up paying $180 per pound of sugar in the sugar-producing Republic of Guyana,” one person commented.
“Sugar is scarce on the West Coast (of Demerara)…whoever has, they selling for $200 a pound,” another individual stated.
Another social media user contended that “I paid $1200 for 4lbs of sugar two days ago. What is going on in this country?”
This publication also spoke to several persons, who indicated that none of their local shops are selling the product. One individual told this publication that she resorted to buying imported white sugar.
Where is the sugar going?
When asked about the widespread reports of a sugar shortage, a senior official at the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) contended that this should not be the case. It was noted that some 18,000 bags of sugar were sold by the Corporation last week.
The official revealed that GuySuCo had found out that some wholesalers have been buying the commodity in bulk and sending it to Venezuela, where it is sold for higher prices.
“It’s not a suspicion,” the official contended. It was disclosed that on June 5, 2022, some 2000 50kg bags of sugar were shipped to the North West District (NWD) – a region which reportedly does not consume that much sugar.
“Region One has a population of 26,000…Georgetown has a population of about 90,000 people and they don’t use so much sugar in a week,” the official reasoned. “So, what are they doing with the sugar?”
As a result, GuySuCo had taken a decision to only sell sugar to three categories of users: supermarkets, bakeries, and manufacturers.
While the local shops may not have had access to the commodity for resale, the official insisted that the supermarkets have access to the product.
However, when the Uitvlugt 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.
“And Guyana don’t use more than 3000 bags of sugar a week,” the official pointed out.
At this point when the sale of sugar is resumed to wholesalers, it is the hope of GuySuCo that they service the local market first.
“The Corporation has to be careful because our mandate is to supply to Guyana…once [we start] reselling to wholesalers from next week, what the wholesalers do with it, that’s out of our control,” the official explained.
Assured of no shortage
Reports of a sugar shortage on the local market have reached Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha, who raised the issue with GuySuCo on Wednesday morning.
In discussion with the top management of the sugar company, the Minister was assured that there was no shortage of sugar.
“I’m not aware of it. I met GuySuCo this morning (Wednesday), and they assured me there is no shortage of sugar…I told them to call in the distributors and inform them what are the views around the country, of people saying sugar short and the price gone up…they told me, they assured me, there is no shortage of sugar,” Mustapha said when contacted by this publication for a comment on the issue.
He said the suspicion at the moment was that “some people want to create a shortage”. Against this backdrop, he warned that any supplier hoarding in a bid to increase the price for the commodity would be dealt with accordingly.
The Minister had directed further questions on the matter to the acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at GuySuCo, Threbowan Shiwprasad as substantive CEO Sasenarine Singh was on leave. When contacted, Shiwprasad indicated that he was in a meeting and asked this publication to call back at a later time. However, subsequent calls went unanswered.
Meanwhile, GuySuCo, in a subsequent social media post, said that the price for a 50kg bag of sugar is $9900. This publication understands that anyone desirous of purchasing sugar can do so directly at GuySuCo, but the minimum number of bags to be bought is 50.
It was reported two days ago by GuySuCo that the Uitvlugt Estate Factory team has successfully completed machinery and steam trials with the installation of a new gearbox, a critical part of the factory’s operations.
The Uitvlugt Factory has been out of operation since March of this year after a mechanical issue was detected, forcing the estate to call off its first crop for 2022. The issue has since been rectified.
The mechanical issues developed at the Uitvlugt Factory earlier this year dealt a significant blow to the estate’s sugar production target for first crop of 4000 tonnes. The estate was only able to produce 66 tonnes.
In 2021, total sugar production stood at 58,025 tonnes. This was a significant reduction in comparison to the 88,868 tonnes produced in 2020. However, it is projected that the sugar sector will grow by some 11.8 per cent this year, with GuySuCo targeting 65,000 tonnes of sugar.