GuySuCo seeking cane farmers for 800 hectares at Uitvlugt

With the second crop underway and a daunting 192,000 tonnes of sugar still needed to make the 2013 target of 240,000 tonnes, the Guyana Sugar Corporation is soliciting private cane farmers in the outsourcing of 800 hectares of land at Uitvlugt Estate.

GuySuCo will be hosting an “open house” of sorts on July 18; the company is asking for private cane farmers to then express their interest in writing by August 2. The land that is currently not being used  “has been out of cultivation in excess of two years,” according to an advertisement in yesterday’s Sunday Chronicle by the state owned company. GuySuCo said that the move was being made in a bid to maximize the capacity of the Uitvlugt factory and to increase production.

The announcement by GuySuCo that it had access to 800 hectares of unused land is oddly timed as the CEO, Paul Bhim had stated previously that flood fallowing meant taking land away on a yearly basis, land that was desperately needed to grow cane, allowing for targets to be met.

Bhim has previously told Stabroek News that “we can’t have a field unused for an entire year when we have quotas to meet”. GAWU Head, Komal Chand had stated that GuySuCo had to address the agronomy of the land before cane of a higher quality can be grown. Flood fallowing had been one of the techniques referred to. He had noted that going into the reaping of the first crop there just wasn’t enough cane in the fields. Chand had said that the industry will continue to suffer because “they are not getting the cane per hectare which suggests that they are not getting the yield…you can’t sacrifice the replanting and expect to make targets.”

Chand has stated that poor cane quality can be a leading contributor to not meeting annual targets requiring the state-owned corporation to make amendments to targets on a seasonal basis.

GuySuCo had painted a picture in the first crop that land was being used to its maximum capacity and to spare land for flood fallowing was not possible due to the pressure to produce sugar. Having 800 hectares currently being unused that has had an adequate amount of time to rejuvenate supports criticisms that the industry has failed to properly assess its current state.

Industry expert, Tony Vieira has stated that while GuySuCo and the agriculture ministry claim that cane was not reaped later in the first crop to allow for more mature cane to be reaped in the second, he learnt that some cane was in fact being reaped before full maturity.

In a letter to Stabroek News Vieira stated that “GuySuCo was so short of cane in the first crop of 2013 that they started bringing forward canes scheduled to be reaped in the second crop. This means that the corporation was reaping the canes from the second crop of 2013 at approximately 6 months old.”

Vieira stated that the mishandling of the first and now the second crop has further showcased that the sugar industry was “confused and in incapable hands”. Vieira stated that going into the second crop GuySuCo was still not fully aware of the state of the lands currently in use.

Chand recently told Stabroek News that he was optimistic in relation to GuySuCo’s ability to harvest the amount of cane needed though he had previously stated that there wasn’t enough cane in the ground to be harvested.

Critics have called for a complete overhaul of the sugar sector in the face of slumping production, charges of poor management and market threats.

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