In an editorial published by KN some few weeks ago, the writer said King Sugar is dead, dying, near death or words to portray the state of sugar’s health. To such heraldic pronouncement, we say Long Live the King! For when an announcement is made that the king is dead, simultaneous to that statement comes the refrain, Long Live the King!, for a new monarch is almost immediately proclaimed. The old King has died. Life goes on, sometimes more prosperous for the Kingdom.
Talk for the curtailment of sugar may be in order. That sugar is dead and needs a burial. We are saying news of sugar’s demise is rather exaggerated, premature and unfounded. Sugar has more to live for, give the king a chance to rally forward.
Hearken back to the mid seventies of the last century, yes the one just gone by sixteen years now. The European Union advised sugar producing countries that were their former colonial possessions in the APC countries, (Atlantic- Pacific-Caribbean) to cut back on the acreages of sugar lands. No less a person than Cheddi Jagan being an apostle of the sugar workers was extolling the virtues of such advice. He used to mention Mauritius in the Indian Ocean off the West Coast Of Africa and how the Govt. of Sir Sewasagur Ramgolam advised sugar cane farmers to take out two rows of cane from every three rows to be planted to other crops that included coriander, black pepper, etc. for which the Govt. promised, and found the markets for the new crops.
Yet when the Forbes Burnham Govt. commenced the diversification process in the mid seventies under Other Crops Division of GuySuCo, headed by Dr. Muller, one of our finest agri-scientists, it was sabotaged by those who when in office for over 23 years failed to heed all warnings, including the drastic cut in price of sugar by one third, in 2003 or thereabouts. They did not heed the World Bank recommendation in 1992 to close all the Demerara Estates due to the age of the sugar factories, low yield from the fields caused by agronomical factors, high rainfall patterns in Demerara, and other considerations. The new Govt. of the Peoples’ Progressive Party was properly advised to concentrate sugar in Berbice for all the good reasons. Perhaps this was why the PPP decided on the Skeldon factory.
Discussions on the demise of ‘King Sugar’ in Guyana need to be strongly contested. The present public discussion across all media and the country’s newspapers if not focused on the commercial viability of the industry, is at other times apparently aimed at the notion that ‘sugar’ is being used as a tool against a certain ethnicity in Guyana or is being used to protect that ethnicity in Guyana.
That seems to be the only discussion about the oldest industrial product in Guyanese history. It is embarrassing and belittles not only us Guyanese ; it also shows a lack of vision and ability to re conceptualize an 18th Century industry in the high tech world of the early 21st Century. Simply put, Demerara once was one of the most prized jewels of the British Crown, and the standard of value for a product that at one time was of limited supply. The talk to scrap the sugar industry and not curtail it, given certain economic and industrial difficulties, is like spitting in the wind.
Demerara sugar in its time exemplified wealth and fine taste. It was known in the Courts of Europe, and many envied the British for their ownership of the product. Sugar was one of the earliest products that has had a global brand Demerara Crystals not to dismiss Demerara rum.
When we forget the above, we throw away the hard work and sacrifices of our ancestors. This British product was the synergy of early European industrial prowess wedded to the skills of natives who knew how to process it. Would we want to dishonour our ancestors by not paying homage to their gruesome and economic exploitation? Who drove back the sea, cleared, drained and reclaimed the equivalent of nine million acres of land, installed two million five hundred and fifty miles of drainage canals, trenches and inter-bed drains, three thousand five hundred miles of dams, roads and foot paths, two thousand one hundred and seventy six miles of sea and river defence, and moved one hundred million tons of earth without machinery?
The indentured after the Emancipation of the enslaved did their part to maintain the above. There is some talk that our own Dr. Clive Thomas was dishonoured when he spoke about the many by-products that can be derived from the sugar cane. This nation’s leaders past and present have not exhibited the vision to comprehend the benefits of Research and Development of the sugar cane plant. We ate the sweet sugar and drank the good rum, and sank in our hollowness that these two products were just heavenly. Recall the prized rum sold by DDL for five hundred thousand dollars per bottle. The University of Guyana has not produced scientists mindful of pursuing such studies. Govt. would have had to provide the funds for such studies, or perhaps send our young students to sugar producing countries to study their sugar derived technology; what else can we get from the sugar cane plant, apart from the main products?
Editor’s note: Because of its length, this letter will conclude in tomorrow’s edition
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