– 2012 records lowest first crop figure for over 20 years
Almost halfway through the year, the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) is already counting its losses as its sugar estates are presently suffering from low yields and minimal sugar production across the country.
While GuySuCo and the Ministry of Agriculture were both optimistic at the start of 2012 that the industry would be able to meet this year’s production target of between 250,000 and 265,000 tonnes, the heavy rainfall has badly affected the first crop.
The inclement weather pattern, coupled with the strike action experienced during the first half of 2012, resulted in a major impact on the estates’ performances.
Kaieteur News understands that as at the week ending May 6, 2012, the sugar industry recorded a production of 67,299 tonnes, which is evidently the lowest figure in first crop production for over 20 years.
Last year, the country saw production of 106,627 tonnes at the end of that first crop and this year the industry barely managed to scrape 63 per cent of that total.
Some have deemed it “unwise” to reap cane in the wet since after this is done the fields are exposed to rainfall on the bare land which encourages soil compaction and poor regrowth.
It also washes away fertilizers and promotes weed growth etc.
In addition because of the intermittent grinding due to the low rate of harvesting in the rain, the factories become uneconomical to operate.
This newspaper was told that the Rose Hall factory in Berbice produced 79 tonnes of sugar as at the week ending May 6, 2012, and the Blairmont factory, also in the Ancient County, recorded a production of 139 tonnes.
Meanwhile the Enmore sugar factory located on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD) saw a poor yield of 156 tonnes for that period.
For the Skeldon Sugar Estate, Corentyne, Berbice, which had a history of being the best yielding estate of cane and sugar per acre in previous years, the workers only managed to produce 6,596 tonnes at the week ending May 6, 2012, in comparison with the 6,944 tonnes produced at the Uitvlugt Sugar Estate, West Coast Demerara (WCD).
The factory at Skeldon has produced the lowest amount of sugar in the 2012 first crop than any other factory in the entire industry.
In 2011, the first crop at Albion, Berbice, produced 28,504 tonnes of sugar; in 2012 it only produced 16,135 tonnes up to the week ending May 6.
Rose Hall, which had produced 15,430 tonnes last year, could only produce 10,640 tonnes for their first crop for this year while Blairmont produced 10,122 tonnes as at May 6, 2012 which was a much lower figure than 2011’s achievement of 17,611 tonnes for the same period.
It was noted that at the end of the first crop in 2011, the factory at La Bonne Intention (LBI), ECD, was closed off and all of the cane from there is presently being grinded at the Enmore factory.
However, in 2011 the Enmore/LBI combination produced 13,452 tonnes of sugar, but this year they only achieved 8,246 tonnes.
For Wales, West Bank Demerara (WBD), for the first crop in 2011 the factory produced 10,752 tonnes but this year it only produced 8,615 tonnes of sugar, while the Uitvlugt factory generated 6,999 tonnes in comparison with last year’s 10,442 tonnes.
Efforts to contact Paul Bhim, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GuySuCo yesterday proved futile. His secretary noted that the CEO was out of town.
In an interview with state media earlier this month, Bhim admitted that GuySuCo had fallen short of its 101,000 tonne production target for the first crop in 2012, due to a number of factors.
He stated that the weather, a combination of several factors, including management issues and poor turnout by harvesters, had led the sugar corporation to this outcome.
Kaieteur News also understands that most of the machines used at the Sugar Estates/ Factories are not effective during the rainy season and as a result, works on the estates and factories have come to a halt.
While these tasks can be completed manually, Bhim had explained that the workers have become reliant on the machinery and in most cases, refuse to undertake the job without assistance of bell loaders.
“We have not been able to use the machinery to load cane, and also the mechanized harvesting has been tremendously affected by the weather… We rely on workers to actually come in and load cane, and I am afraid that the workers are reluctant to do that,” GuySuCo’s CEO had stated.
At that time, he had stressed that the Skeldon sugar factory had become a major “worry”, since the rains impacted that area more than the other sites, and caused work to cease completely.
“We are quite reliant on mechanized harvesting at Skeldon, but the weather conditions also stopped us, and Skeldon has had more rain than any other part of the industry. And in fact, (since) mechanized harvesting wasn’t done, we are really struggling to take the cane out.”
He clarified that the management issues he had spoken of were not the reason for the strikes that occurred. However, strikes were related to the harvesting operations at some of the estates.
“We have had a few issues, particularly at a couple of locations, in terms of management of the harvesting operations; and that is what I mean by ‘management issues’. Most of all, we have been affected by the in-and-out rainfall. Normally, we would expect March to be a very dry month; normally, it is the driest month, but we had quite a large amount of rain.”
Additionally, he said, March rains created a major setback for the industry, since those rains were unexpected. According to him, March is known to be one of the driest months during production.
Turning his attention to the 2012 target, he noted that he was in no position to speak about that; but the industry remained quite optimistic with regard to achieving its overall target.
“I cannot say whether the company is optimistic about reaching its target, until the month of June. Target for the first crop is 101,000 tonnes of sugar, and we are looking to continue harvesting till the end of May or as far as the weather would allow.”
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