When compared to other sugar estates throughout the country, the estate at Wales on the West Bank of Demerara is in the worst shape and to refurbish it would result in the other estates being run down.
This is according to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), Errol Hanoman, who during a televised interview on the National Communications Network (NCN) on Tuesday evening stated
that the Wales sugar estate has been in “a sinking economic state over the last years” with funds from the other estates being pumped into it to support its continued operations.
Hanoman said the estate in question is projected to suffer between $1.6B to $1.9B this year and as such the decision has been made to close down the Wales’ sugar estate.
However, he assured that ‘management’ is working towards securing the employment of as many workers as possible from this WBD location and that plans are also afoot to reduce the industry’s current level of losses as well as to improve the efficiency of other sugar estates throughout Guyana.
“In 2015, approximately 231,000 tonnes of sugar was produced and the likely losses acquired are an approximate $16B…we are looking to produce 240,000 tonnes, therefore our losses will be in the same vicinity of $16B,” Hanoman also stated.
In justifying the decision of its closure, he said that already 60 per cent of the Wales’ sugar estate Drainage & Irrigation (D&I) has been run down while 75 per cent of its cultivation and bridges are in poor states.
According to the GuySuCo CEO, 50 per cent of the 3,356 hectares need to be re-tilled and replanted and 50 percent of the navigation system is presently clogged up with weeds.
“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 explained.
He opined that were such a move to be taken to resuscitate the Wale’s sugar estate then it would lead to the collapse of the entire sugar industry in the country and this is the reason why management is moving ahead to cease operations at that location.
“This is not an overnight problem, it has been ongoing for some years. The problem has been growing over the past years… we’ve reached the stage where it’s going to cost too great and grave a price to fix it,” Hanoman reiterated.
Meanwhile, Yusuf Abdool, General Manager, Technical Services of GuySuCo pointed out that of all the sugar estates in Guyana, Wales is the “smallest” and it has a per hour capacity rating of 95 to 100 tonnes of cane.
“It’s old, with equipment over 100 years old… the steam generation equipment which is major for the operation of the industry and the cane preparation equipment are obsolete,” he said.
Tremendous investment would be required to upgrade the Wales’s sugar estate since all equipment at that location will need to be replaced if it is to achieve the expected reliability, Abdool explained.
“Last crop we averaged 85 percent… we had significant boiler problems, we had to replace tubes, four days production was lost to repair the boilers. Poor steam generation meant we had to utilise more diesel engines affecting cost, we also had to use more wood which damaged the boiler system,” he also stated.
Additionally, Raymond Sangster, who is the Manager of Agricultural Services, declared that the yield of 9,000 tonnes of sugar from the available hectares at
the Wales’ sugar estate is a clear indication that it would be uneconomical to continue operations at the estate in question.
On Monday, the Government through the Agriculture Ministry announced via a media statement that the Wales estate would be closed by the end of the second crop for 2016.
Following this announcement, hundreds of sugar workers, cane farmers and their families turned up at the market square near the Wales’ sugar estate on Tuesday to air their concerns and vent their frustration to Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.
Mr Jagdeo pledged his Party’s support to the residents of Region Three to oppose the closure of the Wales’ estate which would have an adverse impact on both the livelihoods of thousands, as well as the country’s economy.