Jan 16, 2015 News
The reality that the approval of millions of taxpayers’ dollars for the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) to
rescue the ailing industry was a waste of time, compounded by the poor performance of the “state-of-the-art” Skeldon Sugar Factory, is what led Vice Chairman of the Alliance For Change, Moses Nagamootoo, to the firm conclusion that Guyana is now back to the gloomy days of bitter sugar politics.
Nagamootoo made this, among other comments, at his party’s press conference which was held yesterday at the Georgetown Club. He was at the time, referring to a news item in the media which stated that the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) lambasted GuySuCo for its incompetence and subsequently called for a commission of inquiry into the industry.
The Union chided the state agency for producing sugar at US$40 per pound, harvesting young canes during the second crop, and failing to negotiate a better sales deal with Tate and Lyle.
GAWU had also reprimanded GuySuCo, noting that last year’s production of 216,142 was the second lowest production in 24 years. It noted that even this figure was 3,000 tonnes below the corporation’s own target.
It was particularly angered by the fact that the sugar corporation harvested immature canes just to reach the 216, 000-tonne target. It warned that such an action will have serious consequences for this year’s target.
“The pre-harvesting of young canes on a number of estates during some weeks in November and December, 2014 was not only senseless and costly, but will compromise the production potential of the first crop (this year),” GAWU stated.
Nagamootoo, on this premise, said that the AFC supports the call for the inquiry and went beyond this, by calling for a full investigation into all monies given to government by the European Union, as well as a forensic audit into the millions wasted on the Skeldon Sugar factory and the billions given by Parliament to help the cash-strapped company over the years.
“I just want to observe that the call made now by GAWU cannot be said to be some political move, because the head of the Union is a sitting PPP Parliamentarian. Months ago, when renowned Professor Clive Thomas had said that the industry had reached a point of no return, he was dismissed as a doomsday advocate. Now we see what’s happening, the lives of over 1600 works are in jeopardy.
“In 2010, Former President Bharrat Jagdeo said that there was a tragedy unfolding in the industry and the Skeldon factory was not showing results. He had said that there were too many mistakes and he would fix it, but Mr. Fix-It didn’t fix it! Now he is fixing elections in Sri Lanka,” Nagamootoo asserted emphatically.
The AFC Vice Chairman said that it was felt that a rescue plan would have been implemented, but all the while they were being given false hopes.
He then reiterated the AFC’s call for a full scale investigation into the industry.
GAWU had also stated that the industry now finds itself more indebted than it was previously, and this has been worsened by poor decision-making on sales with Tate and Lyle.
“Suppliers’ payments for service and materials are delayed for months. The present cash flow position of the Corporation would not have been in such dire straits had the Corporation agreed in late 2012 to a three-year contract to supply the 190,000 tonnes sugar to the Tate and Lyle market. For three years – 2013, 2014 and 2015 – the Corporation would have been receiving over US$700 per tonne of sugar.
The Corporation insisted on a one-year contract only for 2013, unlike the Jamaican sugar industry which has negotiated with Tate and Lyle a three-year contract for years 2013, 2014 and 2015, and is paid US$750 per tonne sugar. The latest shipments to Tate and Lyle in November/December, 2014 by GuySuCo merely attracted US$340 per tonne,” GAWU said.
It said too that it believes that while it’s long overdue to have a comprehensive inquiry into the operations of the sugar industry, such inquiry must not be delayed further if the important industry is to be saved from collapse.
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