Stakeholders should review the cane-farmers’ act if they intend to do justice to cane-farming

Dear Editor,

SN’s July 16, 2014 publication of APNU’s MP Bulkan’s letter is an embarassment to author, party, and newspaper.

The last should have been the first to recognise the adventurous comment on cane farming for what it is – much less than substantive.

It would have served the MP and the press better if a proper check had been made on the validity of the statements attributed to the Upper Corentyne Chamber of Commerce and Industry. There is the clear omission that Baynauth and Sons and other Cane Farming Cooperatives existed since the 1960s, members of the pioneering National Cane Farmers Committee, along with others in Lower Corentyne, East Bank Berbice, East Coast and East Bank Demerara, as well as on the West Bank and West Coast of Demerara. There were District Associations, the respective memberships of which were represented at the National Cane Farming Committee, together with the manufacturers’ representatives. These two groups were legally linked by a cane farmer’s contract which stipulated all the relevant conditions of the relationships between the parties, including of course how the TCTS for farmers’ cane was established by all the factories involved.

The records, faithfully kept, would show that, not only Skeldon Estate generally produced a higher TCTS than the rest of the industry, but that it was topped overall by those farmers who supplied cane to that factory. Just check with Mr Baynauth; he may even recall the name of this writer who was the official charged with coordinating the development of small cane farming in Bookers Sugar Estates in particular, and in the industry as a whole.

Unfortunately too many of the current players (the word is used advisedly) – from the top of the Ministry of Agriculture, through estate managements, to new farmers, have been substantively under-informed about the contractual relationships (benefits and obligations) between manufacturer and cane farmer, largely because appropriate attention to the National Cane Farmers’ Committee Act and Regulations (the contract) have been deliberately misapplied over the last decade or more.

Obviously the act needs updating, but it is by no means irrelevant to current circumstances. All the stakeholders – cane farmers, chambers of commerce and industry, GuySuCo management, bankers, and MPs would do well to review the legislation, if in fact the intention is to do justice to the cane farming component of the industry, without the discrimination which the current disposition allows.

Yours faithfully,
E B John

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