Privatise poorly performing estates – Urling

(www.guyanatimesgy.com)The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) is calling for the gradual privatisation of underperforming sugar estates, as the way forward to address some of the many problems facing the ailing sugar industry.

Although admitting that the $6 billion grant budgeted for the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) is necessary considering its current state, outgoing GCCI President Clinton Urling said the annual government subsidies to the corporation is an unsustainable strategy.

According to Urling, the Agriculture Ministry must get “serious” with GuySuCo and initiate steps for it to become an effective agency. “Every year, you can’t keep running back to the Parliament or the national coffers for $6 billion.”

Urling at the time was speaking at a press briefing at the GCCI’s Waterloo Street Office, Georgetown.

Diversification

Due to the many problems facing sugar production, he said the corporation should accelerate its diversification plans to bail itself out of its current financial dilemma.

The GCCI is therefore calling for greater attention to be given to the production of energy, confectionaries, molasses and animal feed, among other byproducts of sugar cane. According to him, GuySuCo should transfer a percentage of its human and capital resources toward the production of other value added products; a move that can also generate revenue and employment.

The outgoing President contended that private investors might be able to produce sugar cheaper and at a faster rate. It was also suggested that other estates can be rented for other investment.

Underperforming estates

“Underperforming estates can be sold or offered at concessionary rental to multinational firms looking to invest and set up their manufacturing and industrial operations here.

This would absorb any employment that is lost as a result of the estates’ closing,” Urling said.

He, however, cautioned that the sale or privatisation of sugar estates should not be done in an arbitrary or illogical manner, but one that is well strategised.

“It has to be done in a clear framework and strategy. If you can attract investors that can produce sugar at a cheaper and faster rate, then you privatise some of the estates or sell them to a private firm looking to invest in other things, commodities.”

Currently, there are eight sugar estates with seven factories. The estates are Wales and Uitvlugt estates in Region Three; Enmore and LBI in Region Four; Blairmont in Region Five; and Rose Hall, Albion and Skeldon in Region Six. Of the eight, the Skeldon and Blairmont estates are experiencing serious problems.

APNU

APNU had called for the closure of the sugar industry, but subsequently backpedaled following heated debates and criticisms from all fractions of society.

However, APNU and the Alliance for Change (AFC) have already signalled their intention to axe the allocation for the corporation in this year’s budget, despite High Court ruling that they cannot.

Agriculture Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy said “any responsible Government would provide critical support for GuySuCo. According to him, it is unfortunate that the Opposition would want to slash such critical funds.

GuySuCo continues to play a leading role in the lives of thousands of Guyanese, not only those who are integrally involved in the production of sugar. The Government strongly believes that GuySuCo will overcome its many challenges and return to its former glory days.

The corporation spends about $15 billion annually on drainage and irrigation, which not only supports the cultivation of sugar cane, but rice also benefits in a major way.

The Agriculture Ministry remains optimistic that GuySuCo this year will begin a rapid progression towards the 300,000 tonnes of sugar goal. This trend is anticipated to continue with tonnage reaching a high of 450,000 by 2020.