President of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union, Komal Chand, says that although the Guyana Sugar Corporation has made its 2013-2017 strategic plan available, the union is yet to receive a copy.

He charged that “the union and the workers who are important stakeholders of the industry have not been even provided with a copy of the plan much less being consulted in the composition of the plan.”

Chand told this publication on Tuesday that “all that I saw about the plan was what was published in the … two editions of the Stabroek News”. He added that  it was only after this that GAWU decided to make a formal request for the strategic plan. Chand stated that all major stakeholders such as the union should have been provided with the final plan once it was completed. He noted that it was not only GAWU that was ignored but also the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE).

Komal Chand
Komal Chand

Chand called NAACIE’s General Secretary, Kenneth Joseph, who also confirmed that the association has not been provided with a copy of the plan. In fact, Joseph noted that he had been planning to request a copy from GAWU later on during the day.

Chand stated that for both unions to be ignored showed a gross disconnect between the state-owned corporation and its obligation to stakeholders. He said that the lack of respect would continue to hurt the industry focusing on the fact that GuySuCo’s board, which compiled the plan, did not have formal discussions with GAWU on what areas required attention. Chand said that the plan could have taken information based on the “discourse that we had, but not to say look we are talking about a plan and that this is what our framework is so you can now think along those lines.”

He said that there needed to be a distinction drawn between formal and informal discussion, stating that informal discussions would be done candidly while formal discussion would allow for preparation. He said that any formal discussions “would require a delegation of the union. It will not require the president it would require a delegation of the union and the rightful body would be the executive committee of the union”. Chand said that it was shocking that GAWU and its sister union NAACIE were ignored by GuySuCo in the groundwork for the new plan.

Chand said that in previous discussion with the board and management of GuySuCo, it was revealed that if the newly revised target of 155,000 tonnes for the second crop was not achieved the industry could be in for over $4.5 billion worth of debt.  GuySuCo’s 2013-17 strategic plan reveals that in fact the state-owned corporation is currently in a $5.2 billion deficit. Chand said that the plan had to address the deficit in a comprehensive manner and that included where GuySuCo would be looking for funding since the corporation could not possibly be self-sustaining at the moment.

The GAWU President, who is also a PPP/C Member of Parliament,  said that GuySuCo’s decision to drop the sugar production target by 100,000 annually, taking it from the 2009 blueprint of 450,000 tonnes to 350,000 tonnes, “demonstrates that the previous [plan] was highly flawed…it identified a number that turned out to be far from (achievable) and even if you take out Skeldon from the equation that is beset with so many problems still you find that other estates were unable to produce what they said they would produce.”

He called the 2009 blueprint “highly flawed” while noting that GuySuCo was currently struggling to make 204,000 tonnes of sugar by the end of 2013, a far cry from Minister of Agriculture, Dr Leslie Ramsammy’s budget speech projection of 240,000 tonnes. Chand told Stabroek News that if GuySuCo was able to achieve 204,000 tonnes it will be the lowest production since 1992. Its first crop production of 48,000 tonnes was the lowest on record for that crop in the industry’s history.

Cane in the Ground
Chand stated that “the cane that they claim they had in the fields and the sugar yield they expected didn’t materialize. It is yet to be seen at the end of this crop if the canes that they have and the yield of the canes will enable them to make this lowly set target.”

GAWU’s president recalled that GuySuCo’s performance in 1990 was abysmal at just under 130,000 tonnes of sugar and this year was not shaping up to be much better. GuySuCo’s production so far for the second crop is just over 83,000 tonnes. He stated that the industry average for tonnes of cane per tonnes of sugar has remained consistent at approximately 12.25. However, he said that as of now there was no way to systematically measure how much cane was in the fields.

Chand noted that he did not foresee that there was an issue with attaining the revised target for 2013 and that although the cane in the field should be monitored the harvesting was progressing nicely due to the current dry weather. Previously Chand had lamented that GuySuCo was not tackling poor cane quality and that GuySuCo has been extremely delinquent in good husbandry methods.

On Tuesday, Chand did reiterate that the fields needed to be looked at and that the 2013-2017 strategic plan had to clearly stipulate how much money will be spent on specific areas. He said that it was not enough that the plan outlines areas that needed improvement but that finances needed to be attached to all areas to allow for work to be done.

GuySuCo’s new strategic plan revealed that by 2017 the corporation plans to spend $19.4 billion to bring the struggling sugar sector out of the red.