Sugar ends at disastrous 183,000 tonnes

-Albion remains champion producer

Sugar production will end the year at 183,000 tonnes, roughly 56,000 tonnes less than the figure which had originally been set for 2016.

The figure is also 48,000 tonnes less than the 2015 output of 231,000. This year’s 183,000 is one of the lowest outputs in decades and was registered in the first full year of the APNU+AFC government in office.

The poor result prompted a number of explanations from Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder at a press conference on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) yesterday accused GuySuCo’s top management of grave miscalculation as it relates to the target.

Holder on Thursday said that while El Nino had a positive impact on production last year, it had a negative impact this year.

“While the onset of the El Nino weather phenomenon or drought would have had a very favourable impact on harvesting during the second crop of 2015 as a result of excellent ripening and harvesting conditions, it took its toll on the production this year.  The combined effects of the poor state of the cultivation coupled with the impact of El Nino, resulted in a shortfall of 23,600 metric tonnes of sugar (based on the revised targets)”.

It is unclear why the cultivation was in a poor state.

Additionally, Holder said that 2016 has been plagued by “poor labour turnout, lack of spares, equipment shortages in particular cane punts, and factory breakdowns.

As indicated earlier, the shortage of skills and experience together with the serious underinvestment in the industry are taking their toll.

While the 2016 second crop started late as a result of the wet conditions which succeeded the drought and canes yields are higher than forecasted, the Corporation would be unable to harvest all its canes before the end of the year and it is estimated that some 153,300 tonnes of cane would be carried over into 2017.  This is equivalent to some 11,300 tonnes sugar”, he added.

He also said that the arid El Nino has resulted in a drop in world production of sugar over the previous season of over 13 million tonnes.    Production declines were experienced by producers in Central America, the Caribbean, Cuba, China, India, Philippines, Thailand to name a few, he said.

He provided information on a range of production matters

* An estimated 194,355 tonnes canes carried over to be harvested in 2017. The estimated sugar from the carry over canes is 14,060 tonnes (this figure was different from another one that he gave at the press conference).

* Whilst cane yields in the 1st crop were below estimates, the 2nd crop cane yields were appreciably better (9% better than estimates).

* The El Nino weather phenomenon had a significant effect on cane growth particularly in the 1st crop

* Tillage and replanting were similarly affected.

* Tillage achieved 60 % of the programme.

* Planting achieved 65% of the programme.

* Lack of investment over the years in both field and factory contributed to significant out of canes and factory downtime.

* Power generation issues at 3 of our factories led to problems in steam generation and increased usage of diesel fuel.

At its press conference yesterday, the main sugar union GAWU said that from several perspectives, 2016 has been a dismal year.

“Instead of sugar production continuing to climb from a high of 231,000 tonnes in 2015, it slumped, this year, to a low of 183,652 tonnes, the lowest since 1990.

The just concluded second crop which should have lasted about 13 weeks took as much as 18 weeks and still the production target was not met. It is to be noted that the set target of 242,000 tonnes sugar this year was determined after an account was taken of the effects of the last El Nino weather phenomenon. Clearly, there was a grave miscalculation by the industry’s top management and this requires a full examination given the context of the Government’s inputs and various interferences”, the union said.

Estate performance

In terms of estate performance, Albion remained the champion performer racking up over 46,000 tonnes for the year. It was followed by Blairmont with 33,000 tonnes. The troubled, hugely expensive Skeldon estate could only muster just over 31,000 tonnes.

When it was conceived, Skeldon was expected to yield 117,000 tonnes of sugar each year. It has come nowhere near to this since its inauguration in 2009.

Wales estate which will no longer produce sugar, churned out nearly 17,000 tonnes, surpassing its second crop target.

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