As a Guyanese with the ‘sugar industry in my blood’ as it were, having regard to my antecedents, I could not believe my eyes when I read, re-read and reflected on the lengthy statement by the Minister of Agriculture on the paradigm shift in GuySuCo, as reported in yesterday’s Guyana Chronicle.
How can we think and talk so much about a paradigm shift in the sugar industry without even one word being mentioned about the human resources, the people, 16,000 of whom comprise the base of this nodal but beleaguered industry? Do they not matter? Are they not seen, or heard, or able to contribute anything to the achievement of the current, much-vaunted but most elusive, ‘future’ of “their industry” as proclaimed in the slogan: ‘Owned and Operated by the People of Guyana’?
The Minister elaborates on diversification, value-added products, increased production, reduced cost, enhanced mechanization, marketing, diversification, greater efficiencies in field and factory, etc, but not one word on the people on whom any/all grandiose plans are integrally dependent.
In this context it is apposite to recall, even at the risk of incurring the wrath of hardcore anti-colonialists, the immortal words of the iconic Lord Campbell, who in the heyday of the sugar industry coined the mantra: “People are more important than shops, ships and sugar estates.”
Ironically, yesterday’s media also highlighted the strike by sugar workers on the East Demerara Estate who are protesting the dismissal of many of their colleagues following a dispute over the application/non-application of fertilizers. Interestingly, the Minister’s reported statement also dealt with “fertilizers” in the context of replacing chemical fertilizers with bio-fertilizers.
Is it too difficult to understand that while there might be a good case for changing the type of fertilizer, its effective application is a function of competent and motivated human resources at the managerial, supervisory and operational levels of the organization?