GuySuCo yesterday told the three sugar unions that losses of $14.1b and $13.7b are being projected for this year and 2017 respectively and rejigging of the industry was “inevitable and absolutely necessary”.
Billed as a meeting on its future, GuySuCo in a statement said that it told the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial & Industrial Employees (NAACIE) and the Guyana Labour Union (GLU) that it was canvassing for ideas on how to secure the well-being of the approximately 17,000 employees of the industry and their families.
Already having made the shock announcement in January that sugar cultivation at the Wales estate on the West Bank Demerara will be halted at year end, the corporation appears to be preparing the unions for more restructuring of the industry. The unions made no comment after the meeting yesterday at the East Demerara Estate.
Some Wales workers have accepted severance and hundreds more are awaiting details from GuySuCo on diversification plans for the estate.
GuySuCo’s statement said that a “comprehensive presentation” was done by the Corporation’s team, where the forty-seven union representatives were provided with production and financial data from 2010 to year 2025.
“The information presented indicated a very discouraging future for the sugar industry, where the Corporation is projecting losses of approximately G$14.195 Billion in 2016 and further losses of G$13.758 Billion in 2017. In addition to (the) G$12 Billion subsidy received from the government of Guyana in 2015 and G$9 Billion in 2016, the Corporation is seeking an additional subsidy of G$3.5 Billion for this year. Further, the Corporation has projected a cash deficit in 2017 and will be seeking a cash injection of G$18.59 Billion for 2017 from the government if the status quo remains.
“The participants were advised that this situation was unsustainable and re-organisation of the sugar industry was inevitable and absolutely necessary at this time. The Unions’ representatives were encouraged to submit their thoughts on how the industry could secure the future well-being of the approximately 17,000 employees and their families as well as ensuring the profitability of the Business”, the statement said.
GuySuCo added that the participants listened attentively and posed a number of questions on the figures provided. A number of suggestions were made which would improve production, but the sugar corporation said that this unfortunately would not make any significant impact on the operating and cash deficits.
GuySuCo said it was agreed that a team comprising representatives from the three unions would meet with a team from the corporation for a deeper understanding of the financial and other data provided.
It was further agreed that a committee which was created some years ago, comprising representatives of the workers and management on each estate would be resuscitated to address production constraints.
GAWU was represented by General Secretary Seepaul Narine, NAACIE by its General Secretary Kenneth Joseph and the GLU by its head, Carvil Duncan.
For the last decade, GuySuCo has been reeling from massive debt, slumping production, lower priced markets, a dwindling labour force and heavy losses from its flagship Skeldon factory. The former PPP/C government had been under pressure to come up with measures to restore the industry but several efforts failed. On taking office last year, the APNU+AFC government initiated a Commission of Inquiry into the sugar industry. That report did not recommend closing sugar cultivation but the Corporation decided to take this exact step at Wales. The corporation’s and the government’s main focus at the moment is diversifying as a means of saving the industry.