A visiting delegation, comprising former Jamaican Minister Christopher Tufton and a representative of the Sugar Company of Jamaica Limited, was recently told of the slim prospects of the local sugar corporation being sold despite its dismal fortunes during a recent meeting with the Private Sector Commission (PSC).
The Sugar Company of Jamaica Limited is a subsidiary of the China-owned Complant International Sugar Industry Co. Ltd. A source told Stabroek News that the delegation visited Guyana early this month to discuss investment opportunities.
Contacted by Stabroek News, a PSC member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that while the company discussed Guyana’s sugar industry, there were no talks on the local sugar corporation being sold as the private sector organisation had no authority to speak for GuySuCo. “We did meet with Chris Tufton but that was to discuss investment options here… a representative of a Chinese-owned, Fortune 500 company was with him,” the member noted. “We can’t talk about GuySuCo being sold because the private sector is not responsible for GuySuCo or can speak for GuySuCo or sugar but we spoke of the sugar industry here,” the member said.
“Generally the company was looking at what it could invest in Guyana and we offered our ability to guide them,” the member added.
Tufton is a former member of the Jamaica Labour Party and had served as Minister of Agriculture and later as Ministry of Industry and Commerce under its 2007 to 2011 administration. He is also the Executive Director of the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) and is an economic consultant.
Another PSC official explained that the Chinese investor, of Complant, was interested in knowing the odds of Guysuco being sold but did not say if his company was interested in being the purchaser.
The PSC official said that it was explained to both Tufton and the Complant representative that the chances of GuySuCo being sold were slim to none although it was a failing industry given its historical political linkages in Guyana. “We told them that we did not think that GuySuCo would be sold as it has a lot historical ties with the Guyanese people, especially the working class… being realistic, we had to explain the genesis of the link with the ruling party and let them know that no one should hold their breath on hearing of sale anytime soon,” the PSC member said.
Sugar production for 2013 fell to 186,807 tonnes, which is the lowest recorded in 22 years. The past year saw continued industrial relations issues, mechanical problems and inadequate grinding capacity and the industry’s performance slid beneath GuySuCo’s minimum production rate of 232,000 tonnes of sugar for its international and local quotas, leaving the corporation severely indebted to banks and suppliers.
The member also expressed frustration that persons would say that the “PSC is part of some scheme to sell GuySuCo,” saying that there has been negative connotations here when Guyanese hear of foreign investors, and especially the Chinese. “I am hearing of this and that and how there is a plan to sell GuySuCo, so the management is running it to the ground and quite frankly I’m a bit shocked. But I am equally appalled that anyone would say that the PSC is part of some scheme to sell GuySuCo,” the member said.
“We don’t give the foreign companies a chance to invest… we should be glad that we don’t have to pay consultants to bring in investors for us and that people are willing to invest a lot of money in Guyana’s development,” he said.