With grinding pushed back yet again at the Skeldon factory, the Guyana Sugar Corporation is falling significantly behind on the crucial second crop target.
As of August 9th, the last official set of figures provided to the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) by GuySuCo, just under 19,000 tonnes of sugar was produced. GuySuCo does have until the end of the year to make 192,000 tonnes of sugar for the second crop which industry analysts say would be impossible. The first crop was a depressing 48,000 – the lowest ever recorded figure for a first crop – a far cry from the 71,000-tonne target.
President of GAWU Komal Chand stated “the 9th of August the production of sugar in the industry is 18,830 approximately 19,000 tonnes…which is under 50 percent of what should have been the industry target as of last weekend ending.”
This low output could have severe repercussions for Guyana’s European Union quota.
Chand said that the major complication has been the weather and the unpredictability of the weather. He said that it was shocking that this far into the second crop GuySuCo has been affected so significantly by the rainy days. He said “who could have told anybody as late as this time in August…the 15th of August the weather would have been so unsuitable, the rainy conditions we had over the past weeks would have been so unsuitable that we would not have been able to harvest cane at full blast.”
He said that this figure was significant, but by the end of the month he was sure that the weather would allow for full harvesting to commence. Chand told Stabroek News that the rain made the fields a mess and that the dams used by harvesters to travel in and out of the fields just couldn’t be used. He made note that workers being unable to travel in and out of the backdams meant that the dams were rendered useless for workers who had to pull punts along the dams as well as tractor-driven punts.
The Head of GAWU was resolute when he said “the work opportunity days are getting less and less, it is much less than 10 years ago”. Continuing, Chand said that the changes in the weather pattern were proving to be one of the most significant challenges to the industry to date and that working around the rains has proved difficult.
Chand stated that the current production reality was without any assistance from the Skeldon estate, noting that if the weather held up grinding could potentially begin in the next week. Skeldon management reinforced Chand’s notion and told Stabroek News yesterday that Sunday was the new target date. Both the head of GAWU and management at Skeldon cautioned that while Sunday was the expected date to commence grinding the rains could once again prove disastrous. When Stabroek News visited the factory yesterday morning there were visible storm clouds and a light drizzle throughout the day.
Stabroek News understands that the manual reaping at Skeldon was not enough to provide an adequate amount of cane to keep the factory going and that it made little sense to start up the problem-plagued high capacity factory – 350 tonnes of cane per hour – if the mechanical component in cane harvesting would be underused.
While bad weather has been cited as one of the key reasons for low production in the industry, experts have said that the sugar fields are in a dire state and that yields were lower than they should be.
Meanwhile, prior to Stabroek News visiting the factory, over 240 Skeldon cane harvester were seen en route to the Blairmont Estate along the East Berbice/ Corentyne Highway where they have been working for the past four weeks. Harvesters were significantly agitated that they were harvesting for the Blairmont Estate noting that they were not receiving their incentives for reaching quotas. However Stabroek News was later notified that there was a miscommunication between Skeldon management, GAWU representatives and workers and that incentives were to be paid out today.
Harvesters did not seem inclined to optimism. They told Stabroek News that Skeldon was not likely to begin harvesting until the end of August if that early. One harvester was very adamant that “rains just a fall, Skeldon aint starting till next month, look and see”. Yet another worker said that a scale test was done on Monday, but that was about as much activity the factory has seen since the beginning of the season. It was at this point that harvesters chanted “factory is of no use” and became increasingly agitated. The Chinese-built factory has endured years of problems and corrective work was recently done by a South African firm.
When Stabroek News came upon the convoy they were waiting on another truck to assist with the transportation of more harvesters. This newspaper was brushed off by the GuySuCo representatives when it attempted to find out why workers were becoming increasingly frustrated.
One worker told this publication that since Skeldon was still to begin the second crop they were shuttled between the other estates including Albion and Blairmont.