Kaieteur News – My attention was drawn recently to an Alliance For Change column, which appeared in the Kaieteur News’ edition of June 16, 2013. It was penned under the name of Moses Nagamootoo and now Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), Mr Sasenarine Singh, and titled “Economic Security for Sugar Workers is Imperative.”
How times have changed! Mr. Singh is now in the camp of the People’s Progressive Party and has been catapulted into a position in which he can implement the very proposals, which he recommended in that column.
Among the proposals offered were for the sugar industry to produce ethanol. According to the column, the AFC had been pushing for a National E10 (10 percent blend of ethanol into gasoline) which would immediately enhance the cash flows of the industry and help guarantee workers’ wages.
In fact, Singh posed the question, last October, just after he took over: “Do we need a cogeneration plant, do we need a refinery, do we need a distillery, do we need an ethanol plant, do we need combinations of these, what is the right model we need to get to make this work?” But he did go on to hint that over the long-term the corporation was looking at refined sugar, ethanol and rum manufacturing, alcohol manufacturing, [and] agro-energy. But not much has been heard about these long-term plans since.
There was also a proposal in the 2013 column for packaged sugar and alcohol production. Under Singh’s stewardship so far, the sugar corporation is attempting to revive and expand packaged sugar as part of the long-term strategy to reduce the corporation’s strategy to reduce its dependence on bulk-sugar exports.
GuySuCo is now moving full-steam ahead on the production of packaged sugar. According to the new CEO, the vision is to move the sugar corporation from bulk sugar to value-added products. As such, it is said that Blairmont is going to be focusing exclusively now on the export market for packaged sugar and Enmore on the local market.” In fact, it now appears that the production of packaged sugar is the only leg on which the reform of the industry is running.
In terms of field operations, the 2013 column, of Nagamootoo and Singh, had noted that the best practice of replanting canes every five years had been abandoned. It stated that workers were advising that replanting was then taking between eight to 12 years. So, what is the plan in this regard? Is the sugar corporation going to replant every five years?
Of interest now, was the proposal for flood fallowing every five years and for parts of the cultivation to remain flooded, and fallow for six-nine months to “improve the structure of the soil, reducing the need for nitrogen fertiliser and assisting with the control of weeds, pest and disease, continues to be delayed.”
At present large tracts of cultivation are under water and have been for the past month. This water eventually is released through the drainage canals into the Atlantic and has been known to find its way into residential areas and other farmlands. It may be suitable now that instead of releasing the water from its flooded cultivation, that parts of the cultivation should be “flooded and fallowed’ for the next six-nine months thereby, reducing the amount of run-off water and increasing the fertility of the flooded and fallowed fields.
It was also noted in that column, that GuySuCo has been registering a low net grinding time. In 2012, for example, this was a mere 50 percent when international best practices usually recommend 80 percent. We have heard nothing since August 2020 about improvements in net grinding time of the factories.
But the suggestion, which was most intriguing, was one, which emerged from Singh in a letter to the newspapers, one month later. In that letter Singh pointed to the example of one Mr. Vikram Pandit of CitiGroup who when he took over operations at that bank said, that until the Bank returns to profitability, he would only accept a salary of US$1 per month.
Given the financial woes of GuySuCo and the added problems which the industry now faces as a result of the floods, it would be a nice idea to pick up the newspapers and read that the present CEO of GuySuCo is doing exactly what his mentor, Vikram Pandit, did at CitiGroup: accept a salary of US$1 per month until the corporation is restored to profitability.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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