The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) has plunged further into financial crisis as sugar production for 2013 fell to 186,807 tonnes, the lowest recorded in 22 years.
In a year rife with industrial relations issues, mechanical problems and inadequate grinding capacity, the industry’s performance slid beneath GuySuCo’s minimum production rate of 232,000 tonnes of sugar for its international and local quotas, leaving the corporation severely indebted to banks and suppliers.
Up to the end of August last year, sugar production was a miserable 81,000 tonnes. The flagship Skeldon factory which was hyped as having the capability to grind 350 tonnes of cane an hour was grinding just 185 tonnes per hour and management had reduced the stated rate to 250 tonnes, calling this a far more realistic grinding rate.
Mechanical issues which have dogged Skeldon from day one continued to eat away at factory time and at money which was poured into it to fix the almost never-ending issues.
President of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) Komal Chand said the total production was “a fragile situation” that could have been avoided if factories’ performances were up to standard.
He stated that even though the Skeldon factory was undersupplying and a major contributor to last year’s dismal performance, sugar production was a key issue in all of the factories. “Even if you take out Skeldon from the equation the others still have low productions,” he added. He further stated that field expansion had also caused a downward slide in production.
He added that production for the last two years was shameful when compared to 2002, 2003 and 2004’s average annual production of 315,000 tonnes. “The production is extremely low and therefore puts GuySuCo in deeper financial trouble,” Chand said.
Sugar workers were on a record number of strikes last year with the latest and last one being in December, when they downed tools over their annual production incentive, effectively bringing the entire industry to a halt.
GuySuCo Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Paul Bhim said he was hoping that there wouldn’t be a repeat of last year’s performance and that the corporation would ensure there is a hike in yields for the new year. “We are going to ensure that we get the basics right first,” he said.
The CEO blamed the shortfall on last year’s first crop which at 48,000 tonnes was the lowest ever recorded by the industry. He said it was with the first crop that they started to fall short, admitting that the dismal total production has injured the corporation. “It hasn’t helped help us financially,” he said, noting that the new crop is expected to start early in January.
Last year the industry was unable to meet its European Union quota shipment of 167,000 tonnes of sugar