GEORGETOWN, Guyana CMC – The Guyana government has acknowledged that the sugar sector is “in distress” but said it is convinced that the industry will rebound in 2015.
“It is not the first time it has been in distress. GUYSUCO (Guyana Sugar Corporation) will recover and 2015 will mark a turning point in the performance of GUYSUCO. We have made major changes in management and have also identified the members of the New Board of Directors which took control from July 1, “ Agriculture Minister Noel Holder told Parliament.
Contributing to the debate on the 2015 national budget of GUY$221 billion (One Guyana dollar =US$0.008 cents) on Friday, Holder said that over GUY$12 billion will be spent on the sugar industry this year.
“It is not an understatement to say that Skeldon has not functioned to expectation. However, we are of the view that with the completion of the work of the Commission of Inquiry, recommendations made will enable us to address some of the pressing issues affecting the industry”.
Holder said the David Granger administration Government will continue to build the sugar industry to continue its role as “a lead industry” in the country and it will work with the sugar workers to ensure that the industry continues to provide employment, economic and social gains for the people and the country.
But he told legislators that it would not be business as usual within the sector.
“It is not business as usual and a major re-structuring of the industry is an essential pre-requisite for its survival. We await the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry”.
GUYSUCO said it expects production to be 146,300 tonnes for the current crop that Holder said would take production for the year to just over 227,000 tonnes,
“Despite some setbacks occasioned by inclement weather, the Corporation is focusing all its efforts to achieve this target. All estates have commenced operation and the initial yields have been encouraging. Worker turnout has been improving and this trend, if maintained, augers well for the remainder of the crop,” he said.
“Major challenges remain at Skeldon and the East Demerara estates where there is the greatest concentration on mechanization”.
Holder said that while a new board had been appointed at GUYSUCO, it was regrettable that the Opposition had decided not to have a representative on the body.
“I will not stand here and paint a picture that we have it all under control, because the Industry has a rough and rugged road ahead, and its future shape would not be known until later in the year. It is incumbent upon all stakeholders; however, to seriously support the efforts to keep the industry alive and it can only be kept alive if it becomes sustainably viable,” Holder told the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, Holder has described the rice industry as the most important agricultural industry in Guyana, placing it ahead of sugar in terms of foreign exchange earnings.
He said that more than 40,000 people directly depend on the rice industry for their livelihood thus in terms of food security, the sector has helped to secure Guyana’s status as a food-secure country. He spoke of government’s intention to further accelerate production/productivity, “with an emphasis on reducing cost of production”.
Holder noted that, over the years, rice has excelled in its production, moving from 298,125metric tonnes (mt) in 2007 to 635,238mt in 2014.
“This represents a 113% increase in production,” he said, noting however that despite the increase there are some major challenges that that need to addressed including, drying and storage, marketing and compliance by millers as well as improving varieties to enhance productivity.
But he said despite the challenges, Holder indicated that a record 360, 325mt in the spring crop of 2015 was produced whilst 326, 278mt was exported.