Sugar in crisis ‘bad news’ but not surprising, Urling says

- Chamber committee to convene emergency session

Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Clinton Urling has described last week’s disclosure by President Donald Ramotar that the sugar industry was in crisis as “very bad” but “not entirely surprising” news.

“Perhaps the best thing about the announcement is that it gets the politicking about the sugar industry out of the way and creates an environment in which we may be able to talk about what we need to do about sugar,” Urling said.

Asked whether the Chamber intended to respond to the President’s disclosure that government was open to suggestions regarding the way forward for the industry, Urling said that while the Chamber recognised that there were other “more informed stakeholders” on the industry, it would shortly convene “an emergency meeting” of its Trade and Investment Committee. This would be done with a view to studying the full implications of the development and contributing as far as it can to a national determination as to where the industry goes from here. “We shall be consulting both inside and outside the Chamber,” he added.

Asserting that there had not been, up until now, any serious private sector deliberations on the President’s announcement, Urling said that as far as he was aware there was no “private sector position so to speak – on the disclosure that sugar was in crisis. None of us, however, can pretend not to know that the industry was in crisis.”

President Ramotar’s announcement on Sunday at a forum to commemorate the Enmore Martyrs, came just over a month after the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) had announced that the industry’s 48,000-tonne first crop yield was the lowest in the history of the company. Prior to that announcement, the Ramotar administration had been on the defensive over the sugar industry.

Asked for his views on the implications of the President’s pronouncement, Urling said it was likely that there might be some “consequential actions” that would reflect the condition of crisis described by the President. “We may, for example, see the closure of estates and that could obviously mean increased unemployment in the country’s sugar belt with all of the likely economic and political implications.”

Meanwhile,Urling said he believed the President’s announcement should trigger responses from stakeholders at all levels of the society, “and by that I mean every social, economic and political level.”

Asked about the likelihood of possible public/private running of GuySuCo, Urling said that given the global demand for sugar he believed private sector entities might well be interested in some kind of arrangement that places management in private hands. In response to President Ramotar mooting the idea of the industry being run on a cooperative basis, Urling said that while it was too soon to make a final determination, “the situation is such that we can leave nothing off the table.”