Dec 30, 2016 News
Amidst challenges being faced by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) – which is seemingly on its knees – the Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder, has identified another area which has for the past 16 years, negatively impacted the Corporation.
The Minister reported, during his Ministry’s End-of-year Review yesterday, that the adversarial industrial relations environment has resulted in the Corporation losing 1,179,366 man-days due to strikes between January 2000 and the end of September 2016.
The Minister stated that the strikes would have ‘no doubt’ significantly impacted negatively on the health and performance of the industry and the morale of the management team.
From 2005 to 2015, there were 2,019 strikes with an average of 150 per year.
The Minister said that not much was done over the past few years, by way of securing the future of both the industry and the wellbeing of its employees.
“Opportunities existed in the past to reorganize and modernize the industry but these were not pursued. Reference is made here to better sugar prices, funding from the EU (European Union); accompanying measures following the reform of the EU sugar price regime; access to appropriate levels of skills and experience, etc.”
The Coalition Government, he pointed out, inherited a sugar corporation and industry that were “badly run down”.
“Indeed, the first approach by the then management of GuySuCo was for support from Government amounting to $16.9 billion, excluding capital investment, to finance the operations for 2015. The magnitude of the request came as a great shock to the Government and it was only after the appointment of the new Board of Directors and Interim Management Team did this Government begun to appreciate the extent of the decline of our sugar industry.”
While the onset of the El Nino weather phenomenon or drought would have had a very ‘favourable’ impact on harvesting during the second crop of 2015 as a result of excellent ripening and harvesting conditions, it took its toll on the production this year, Holder said.
The Minister said that 2016 has been plagued by poor labour turnout, lack of spares, equipment shortages in particular cane punts, and factory breakdowns.
He added that the shortage of skills and experience together with the serious underinvestment in the industry are taking their toll.
While the 2016 second crop started late as a result of the wet conditions which succeeded the drought and canes yields are higher than forecasted, the Corporation would be unable to harvest all its canes before the end of the year.
It is estimated that some 153,300 tonnes of cane would be carried over into 2017 which, he said, is equivalent to some 11,300 tonnes of sugar.
“The El Nino or drought has resulted in a drop in world production of sugar over the previous season of over 13 million tonnes. Production declines were experienced by producers in Central America, the Caribbean, Cuba, China, India, Philippines, and Thailand to name a few. Guyana was not unique in this regard,” Minister Holder said.
Meanwhile, as the regime continues to push for diversification, a group of Ministers is expected to meet with members of the Main Parliamentary Opposition – the Peoples’ Progressive Party /Civic (PPP/C), later this week to discuss the way forward as it relates to the ailing sugar industry.
Expected to be a part of these discussions are The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), the National Association of Agricultural and the Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) as the sugar workers’ representatives.
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