An initial 2,000 tonnes of sugar is expected to be imported to satisfy the local market as the Ministry of Agriculture confirms that Guyana is indeed short of sugar.
However, whilst an agriculture official substantiated that 2,000 tonnes will be the initial amount, this newspaper has learnt that some 14,000 tonnes of sugar will be purchased from Guatemala.
Yesterday, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon acknowledged that the commodity is indeed being imported to satisfy the domestic demand whilst at the same time remaining compliant with business and commercial commitments overseas.
Speaking at his weekly press briefing, yesterday, Dr. Luncheon added that the Guyana Sugar Corporation has decided that it cannot abandon the commercial and business arrangements, agreements, and trade deals. As such the decision to import sugar was taken.
He noted that it is cheaper to import sugar to satisfy the local market. Government subsidises the local consumption, he added.
Meanwhile, a Ministry of Agriculture official told this newspaper that US$2.7M will be saved as the company will be purchasing the sugar for US$390 per metric ton and selling its local production at US$650 on the international market.
This, according to the official, is an initial step to ensure adequate supplies are available for the local market since there is a delay in the current crop.
The official noted that the Interim Management Board took the decision.
Commenting to the issue, Chairman of the AFC, Khemraj Ramjattan, told Kaieteur News that this is the second time in the history of Guyana that the country has to import sugar to satisfy the local market.
“The country is in a mess,” he said.
Reacting on the fact that the Minister of Agriculture had said that there is enough sugar to satisfy the local market, Ramjattan said, “Utterances from that Minister, we have to take with a pinch of salt, even if it’s about sugar…We are not getting the truth from them as what is the status of that sugar industry.”
Ramjattan, however, acknowledged that the move is economically viable.
“I can understand their attitude towards meeting the specialised markets in Europe because markets in Europe give you a higher price and so they will buy at a lower price and so in a sense it makes economic sense about what they are going to do.”
Additionally, he said that the fact that Guyana has to import sugar is damaging the ‘public image’ of a sugar producing country.
People’s National Congress Reform member, Winston Murray, in expressing his disappointment over the situation, said that GuySuCo’s excuse about the fact that the flooding gravely affecting the industry is ‘false’.
He said that the Agriculture Minister should tell the nation the truth about the reason behind this most recent move.
‘I think that it’s shameful that we have to come to this stage…It is just the probing by good journalists at Kaieteur News that have brought this to attention because they were hiding it.”
This is the first time since 1990 that Guyana is importing sugar.
Kaieteur News reported yesterday that Guyana will be importing sugar to facilitate the provision of sugar on the local market since the 2009 sugar crop will commence later than expected.
In a letter sent out by the corporation under the hand of Chief Executive Officer, Nick Jackson, it was stated that in recent weeks, the Corporation has been making its best endeavours to satisfy customers by supplying from alternative centres with some adjustments to the delivery schedules.
The letter, dated January 26, 2009, also states that this move is as a result of anticipated production
shortfalls stemming from the heavy rainfall experienced since November 2008.
This delayed the crop “start up” and in order to avoid any disruption of supplies, the Guyana Sugar Corporation has made a decision to import bagged brown sugar for the local market, the letter stated.
Just under two weeks ago the Agriculture Minister told this newspaper that the administration is currently making and is still assessing more interventions that could be made to minimise the impact of the extended rainfall on Guyana’s first-quarter export commitments, particularly in the rice and sugar sectors.
The Minister had said that there were some supplies remaining from last year, and these will be used to complement first quarter exports.
As part of the restructuring of the sugar industry, several mangers have been sent packing, with the CEO also tendering his resignation.
The shake-up comes at a time when reports and an internal audit of the company points to instances of corruption and wrongdoings at different levels, the Agriculture Minister said. By Tusika Martin
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