Cane farmers are entitled to $2.6B of the money from the EU

Dear Editor,

On the 30th May 2011 I aired a commentary which told the nation that the European Union development funds #9 and #10 which are being disbursed by the EU to the Government of Guyana were in fact compensation for the loss of the preferential prices for our sugar.

My position was and I quote “in the Kaieteur newspaper of Sunday May 8th 2011 captioned under ‘EU ready to kick off 51 Euros million Programme with Guyana’ is a story which describes a presentation ceremony at which the local European Union Ambassador Mr. Geert Heikens unveiled part of the 10th European Development Fund. This fund was established by the European Union, to buffer the effects of the loss of the EU preferential prices for sugar, the EU has volunteered millions of Euros to the various African, Caribbean and Pacific [ACP] countries affected by the withdrawal of theEU preferential price,to help the sugar producers affected to retool and make themselves more competitive, but in Guyana the Kaieteur News reported that  it will be spent according to our minister of agriculture Robert Persaud on projects such as sea defences and low income housing .

“[Editor] we are spending this money on low income housing and sea defences?  This money is supposed to be spent on the Sugar Industry to make it more competitive or even to compensate those who have had to stop growing sugar cane due to it becoming uneconomical after the removal of the preferential price”.

I further told the public that it was unconscionable that the government was not sharing this relief money with the local sugar cane farmers, and I offered my opinion that my understanding was that they are entitled to receivetheir share of this fund and I quote again from my commentary. “At this time according to the Kaieteur News this country has already received 90 million Euros and now it is getting another 75 million Euros! I am using the Kaieteur News numbers here so any problems with them please take it up with Mr.Glen Lall. That is 165 million Euros! According to my calculations and this is supported by informal conversations I have had with members of the EU, the cane farmers in this country are entitled to their share of this compensation since their income has been reduced by the lower prices now applicable to the industry.  Even those farmers, who no longer grow sugar cane, as happened in Trinidad, should be given their share of this compensation since it will help them to retool for whatever else they have had to switch to due to cane farming becoming uneconomical because of the loss of the EU subsidy.”

Therefore according to my calculations the cane farmers in this country are supposed to receive their share of this 165 million Euros based on 70% [the cane farmers’ share] of the 8% of the canethey contribute to the total production of sugar, now 8% of 165 million Euros is 13.2 Million Euros, which is G$3.8 billion. 70% of this amount is G$2.66 billion. This G$2.66 billion is legitimately owed to the Guyanese cane farmers and to deprive them of it is especially reprehensible since they are mostly PPP supporters.

I bring this up now since in the Kaieteur Newspaper of 15th October 2011 Ambassador Geert Heikens is saying and I quote him directly from an article on page 13 captioned  ‘EU hopes that sugar money can go to modernize industry’  that  “the latest round of EU support is intended to help improve the efficiency and profitability of sugar cane and sugar production whilst reinforcing private cane farming” .

So it is now official, according to Ambassador Geert Heikens, who we will miss since he has done an excellent job here in Guyana for the EU, he expects this PPP Government to give the cane farmers of this country their fair share of this money to make them more competitivebut of course to date the PPP have not given them a cent of it, when in fact the intention is that everyone who has been affected by the loss of the preferential price should receive this compensation and our cane farmers should have in fact received G$2.66 billion which is their share of this compensation.

Yours faithfully,
Tony Vieira

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