This time Dr. Ramsammy commenced his missive with the statement, ‘here are the facts: Wales Sugar Estate is closed and hundreds of sugar workers are unemployed. Skeldon, Sugar Estate has had its first crop operations suspended, no planting has occurred and no harvesting has taken place. Skeldon is essentially closed. Enmore Sugar Packaging Plant has suspended its operation. LBI cane cultivation has ended and no planting has taken place at Enmore. Enmore/LBI has closed. The ethanol plant at Albion has not been used since 2015. The Providence cane fields have been abandoned’.
With regard to the reference of hundreds of workers from Wales being unemployed, about 375 cane harvesters from that estate were encouraged by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) not to work but to request severance instead. On the point of Skeldon Estate being closed; a more appropriate question that should be asked is why was Skeldon Estate closed? This problem did not happen overnight. Dr. Ramsammy should review the Wartsila report that was submitted in 2016. In relation to the Enmore Packaging plant suspending its operations, GuySuCo would like to state that the plant is in operation, however, it is constrained by the poor production performance at the East Demerara Estate. The ethanol plant at the Albion Estate is a demonstration plant and not a commercial producer.
The author proceeded to accuse GuySuCo of lying, providing alternative facts putting a spin on the closure by calling it re-engineering. The Corporation is once again disappointed that Dr. Ramsammy has been so casual and almost pedestrian in his analysis of the complex challenges which it faces. His approach explains why the current management of the Corporation had to undertake to do the strategic thinking necessary for redesigning its future viability. The Corporation also takes Dr Ramsammy’s allegation of lying very seriously.
The author refers to the rationalization of the sugar industry as if it is a new approach in Guyana; however, the history of Guyana shows that sugar played a major role since the 17th century, during that period sugar estates were located mostly in the Essequibo area. Sugar plantations were later extended to Demerara in the 18th century. By the early 19th century, there were about 400 sugar plantations but re-engineering of the industry started since the 19th century. By 1829, the sugar plantations had been reduced from approximately 400 to 238; 138 by 1890; 39 by 1922; 18 by 1967; 11 by 1976; by 1978 there was a further reduction to 10. In 1897, there were 62 sugar factories and by 1928 this was reduced to 21 and by 1978, there were 10.
By 2010, there were 4 estates in Berbice – Skeldon, Albion/Port Mourant (Port Mourant Estate was closed in 1955, hence the name, Albion/Port Mourant) and Rose Hall and Blairmont.
In Demerara, on the East Coast, there were 2 estates – Enmore and La Bonne Intention (LBI)/Ogle Estate. In 1987, the factory at the Diamond Estate was closed and the canes from the cultivation were absorbed by Enmore and La Bonne Intention (LBI)/Ogle Estates. The LBI/Ogle factory has since been closed, thus what were Enmore and LBI Estates is now the East Demerara Estate.
On the West Demerara, there were 3 estates., the Leonora Estate which factory closed in 1986, Wales Estate which ended sugar production in 2016; and Uitvlugt Estate, currently in operation.
Therefore, re-engineering of the sugar industry in Guyana started since the 19th century having been influenced and impacted by changing global and regional trends over the years.
2017, therefore is experiencing a continuum of similar trends. A more progressive response by Dr. Ramsammy would be, to objectively examine the challenges facing GuySuCo and its employee.
Additionally, with regard to the allegations made that GuySuCo is carrying out the wishes of the government; is Dr. Ramsammy implying that any Govern-ment that has given GuySuCo $32 billion in 2.5 years, should not expect or seek to influence the future direction of the Corporation to ensure that the Corporation and industry does what is necessary to return to economic and financial viability? Now that would be irresponsible Dr. Ramsammy would you not agree? Further, is the good doctor suggesting that restructuring the largest Corporation and as the largest employer in Guyana and the Caribbean, this process would not create major shifts?
In concluding, there is nothing trivial about being a part of the management of GuySuCo at this point, efforts are being made to ensure that the widest range of options and opportunities are explored in an attempt to find solutions, save jobs, secure livelihoods and save the industry; and this demands serious and stable minds and a totally different level of consciousness from the one that caused the problem.
The prospects for GuySuCo to contribute positively to strengthening the agriculture sector and the economy as a whole is unlimited, the process, however, would be easier, if the naysayers are to contribute in more creative and innovative ways for the common good.
Once again, we would like to state that ‘GuySuCo is not getting out of sugar!’