Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy last week revealed that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) would be aiming to produce 216,000 tonnes of sugar this year but said that the figure was preliminary and likely to increase.
When asked by Stabroek News whether the ministry and GuySuCo settled on a more realistic production target due to the declining production in recent years, Dr Ramsammy stated that he expected the target to increase after the first crop numbers.
In its 2013-2017 Strategic Plan, which was finalised in July of last year, GuySuCo projected a 2014 target of 278,752 tonnes, which is over 60,000 tonnes more than the preliminary target.
With the strategic plan only finalised a mere seven months ago, critics of the failing industry are appall-ed at the lack of foresight.
GuySuCo had yet to formally commence the first crop as the second week of February came to a close. Initially, GuySuCo had noted that an early start was essential due to left over cane from last year. For the past four years, the state-owned sugar company has promised January starts, noting that early starts were needed to offset low production rates.
However, it has once again failed to follow through. The longer the canes stay in the ground the less sugar yield they can in turn produce. The weather has been an ongoing issue and consistency prevents work from being done.
Mechanisation has proved a difficulty in inclement weather, since if conditions are too wet machines are rendered useless. This in turn results in low worker turnout due to lack of incentives and the physical demands on cane cutters.
Last year’s production was 186,807 tonnes, the lowest on record in GuySuCo’s history. These figures came during a year that GuySuCo would have commissioned US$30 million in rehabilitation works for the troubled Skeldon Factory.
GuySuCo had to readjust the 2013 target on multiple occasions, going from 240,000 tonnes and eventually settling on 203,000 tonnes. Last year, Skeldon was expected to produce just under 40,000 tonnes of sugar. To date, GuySuCo has not released the factory’s actual output.
Meanwhile Carl Greenidge, Vice-Chair of the Parliamentary Econo-mic Services Committee (ESC) told Stabroek News that GuySuCo would have to be more open to scrutiny. He noted that this year the ESC will be probing why certain contracts, such as for the China National Technology Import and Export Corporation (CNTIC) US$200 million Skeldon Modernisation Project, have not been made available in the National Assembly.
This is not the first time the opposition has signalled its intention to scrutinise GuySuCo’s spending. However, little has actually come from it. Last September, the ESC was to question GuySuCo on how the corporation spent over $31 billion from the European Union since 2006, including €23.4 million for 2013 under the Annual Action Programme 2012 on Accompanying Measures on Sugar.