GuySuCo working to recapture key CARICOM markets
By Leonard Gildarie
Guyana is hoping to recapture key sugar markets in CARICOM as the industry makes a bid to boost its production.
The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) yesterday also said that barring rains, next year’s crops are expected to be large and would place the company on a stronger footing to meet its targets.
Low production, a week-long strike and a huge cut to sugar prices by Guyana’s biggest market, Europe, has place the industry in a precarious financial situation.
Workers, after a week-long strike returned to work on Friday last, but according to GuySuCo’s Chief Executive Officer, Errol Hanoman, the situation is not fully back on track as yet as workers’ attendance is still below expectations.
According to Hanoman, Skeldon sugar factory has enough canes to take it through this period.
While Guyana’s main European market is not under threat because of this country’s inability to supply sugar, GuySuCo is hoping that there are no disruptions due to rain or industrial strikes.
The idea, the CEO said yesterday, will be to build a momentum that will guarantee supply of canes to eventually tap in again to the CARICOM market.
With dropping production within recent years, Guyana had been concentrating mainly to meet market quotas of Europe. As a result, the CARICOM market had suffered and this will have to be fixed, Hanoman stressed.
The sugar industry, only a week ago, was on a shutdown countrywide after wage talks became deadlocked on October 30.
GuySuCo, which has offered 3%, withdrew that offer and opted for arbitration.
Later that same day, government declared compulsory arbitration. The tribunal panel was named late last week and after a week, a large percentage of workers returned to their jobs.
On Monday, representatives of GuySuCo and the sugar workers’ union, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) met with the Arbitration Tribunal as work begins by that body to determine what percentage of wage increase, if any, workers would be getting.
Last Thursday, during a press conference, President Bharrat Jagdeo said that the country’s plan to revive the sugar industry does not involve workers losing their jobs but rather making adjustments to changes being made to ensure the continued viability of GuySuCo. Some of these adjustments may involve the workers carrying out their duties in other locations.
According to Jagdeo, with government spending billions of dollars to expand capabilities in the industry which include the new Skeldon factory and a US$12M facility at Enmore to produce packaged sugar, a value-added product, Guyana will have to cut losses and high costs in order to make it more competitive.
Speaking about the current wage talks which were declared deadlocked over a week ago and which led to a countrywide strike and then a government-declared compulsory arbitration, the President was of the opinion that some elements are attempting to portray Government as anti-worker.
The reality is much different, the President said. This year, as of October 1, Guyana suffered the biggest cut in sugar prices as a result of the cuts by the European Union.
Whether it is Booker Tate’s fault or anyone else’s, the reality is that GuySuCo is facing yet another year of low production with banks owed more than $6B, he said. In addition, the sugar company is facing losses of almost $4B by the end of the year, he added.
The good news is that the industry has a plan to turnaround the industry’s fortunes and if aggressively pursued will make GuySuCo very profitable.