It is unlikely that Government will contemplate selling sugar lands at the closed estates that are up for privatisation in any wholesale manner.
Rather, other than allocating small portions for housing and public infrastructure, the idea is to keep the lands for continued sugar related activities.
The lands for the four sugar estates, when Government goes ahead with the privatisations, involves thousands of acres of prime farm lands on the coastlands, stretching from West Bank Demerara to Corentyne, East Berbice.
It has been in sugar cultivation for decades and decades.
Officials have been saying that it will look favourably at leasing the sugar lands attached to the four closed- Skeldon, Rose Hall, Enmore and Wales- with sales not likely.
The lands are valued in the billions and billions of dollars.
Last week, President David Granger was clear that lands were beyond valuable.
In fact, he said that it was like the “family jewels”, he told reporters in response to questions from Kaieteur News, about the privatisations process.
“The idea is that we will not sell off the family jewels…we will make sure that the lands which are being taken out of sugar are placed to the benefit of the people of Guyana as a whole. Now, several anomalies and several contradictions may emerge. For example, the Ministry of Agriculture may need some lands in order to settle sugar workers who are interested in settling. The Ministry of Public Infrastructure would need some lands in terms of its highways and bridges. The Ministry of Communities may need some lands in terms of housing and other ministries may need land.”
The president also noted that private citizens might need lands.
He disclosed that the State Land Sales Commission is meant to reconcile the differences among these various agencies while at the same time make a profit on those lands which will not be going back into sugar.
“So there is a future for sugar, a very clear future, we have put out a green paper. It has gone to the National Assembly. We have had meetings with the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union and with NAACIE (The National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees) and we want to see the sugar industry survive a more compact, better-managed sugar industry.”
Admitting the difficulties facing the industry, Granger said that it is a very competitive one in terms of the international environment in which many people are moving away from sugar and going into artificial sweeteners.
“…but we feel it is something the industry and that (Guyana Sugar) Corporation can survive.”
According to the president, GuySuCo is critical to Guyana.
“…we have said that we are not shutting down the sugar industry… it is being reformed, and we are bent on maintaining larger estates in East Berbice, West Berbice….at Albion, Blairmont and Uitvlugt.”
In fact, he said, it is the hope to produce between 147,000 to 150,000 tonnes of sugar.
“…we are aiming at producing those volumes of sugar and we are aiming at maintaining a working population of about 10,000. So the industry has been placed under a new CEO, and we are selecting a board of directors, the members of which would be more knowledgeable in sugar production.”
According to the President, there has been a tendency or temptation in the past to put persons who might be socially prominent.
However, this practice was frowned on by Granger.
“…but this is a business, this is an international industry… we have to compete with other sugar producers, efficient sugar producers, in…India, Vietnam, elsewhere around the world, and we need to have a serious board and a serious CEO and we are working towards having an industry which could profitably produce about 150,000 tonnes of sugar annually.”
The three estates that now comprise GuySuCo are Albion on the Corentyne, Blairmont on West Berbice, and Uitvlugt, West Demerara.
The fortunes of GuySuCo have fallen from once bring ‘King Sugar’ to now being a thorn in the side of consecutive governments.
It has been producing less and less over the years at thrice what it was selling for, yet demanding billions of dollars in bailouts.
There are several offers on the table including a total buyout of the sugar industry.
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