At a community meeting held at the Rose Hall Estate Community Centre yesterday afternoon, GuySuCo officials enlightened Berbicians on the ‘New GuySuCo,’ and what is in store for the corporation’s estates.
GuySuCo’s Senior Communication Officer, Audreyanna Thomas, who was present at the meeting informed the small gathering of sugar workers and housewives that the GuySuCo they knew is changing into the ‘New GuySuCo.’
According to a handout which was shared at the meeting, the New GuySuCo aims to become a sustainable and profitable agri-business, and will include the production of sugar and other diversification ventures.
Speaking on the White Paper which was presented to Parliament, Thomas relayed to the workers, that “What that paper says is that GuySuCo will eventually have three estates, those will be Uitvlugt-Wales Estate, Blairmont Estate and Albion- Rose Hall Estate.”
She noted that the reasons why GuySuCo needs to “reorganize” are the present debt, which is now at a total of $75 billion, the low market price for bulk sugar, the high production cost of sugar and the workers’ poor attendance record at the estates.
While pointing out that the New GuySuCo will include sugar, as well as diversification ventures, Thomas stated, in regards to sugar that the annual production is estimated to be 147,000 tonnes. She noted, that the European Union as of September 30 this year, will not be offering a preferential price to Guyana and other countries. She said, while there is the guaranteed local, North American and Caribbean market, the additional sugar would usually be sold in the European market. “What this means, is that whatever sugar we produce, we would have to compete with other producers to sell that sugar. So we are scaling down GuySuCo so that we can produce sugar for those guaranteed markets.” She specified that the New GuySuCo will be making some 25,000 tonnes of sugar to satisfy the local markets, 50,000- 60,000 tonnes for the regional markets, 12,500 tonnes for the United States of America and 50,000 tonnes for the world market.
Thomas also added, that the New GuySuCo will include, the Plantation White, which will be evaluated to replace the low priced bulk raw sugar. She said that a European Union-funded study will commence in July/August on the production of Plantation White Sugar.
Adding to this, Thomas highlighted that a study is presently ongoing to determine whether a Co-generation Plant will be profitable at Uitvlugt and Albion Estates.
Meanwhile, touching further on the diversification part of the New GuySuCo, Thomas stated that a feasibility study has confirmed that Aqua Culture seems very viable for Guyana. “A feasibility study on aquaculture farming at Wales Estate was completed in June, and found that the venture is feasible.”
She said that a study funded by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is currently ongoing on dairy farming. It was noted that the operational model of the dairy farming initiative includes a central milk processing and manufacturing facility, along with two specialized nucleus milking farms at Wales Estate.
According to the GuySuCo officials, opportunities which will be available for employees from the re-organizing includes access to lease lands, and to be trained in areas for diversification, among others. It was noted that communities will also benefit from the re-organizing, in regards to new economic growth along with new opportunities.
Meanwhile, touching on Rose Hall Estate specifically, Thomas explained that as a result of the reorganizing of the sugar corporation, 50% of the employees will be absorbed at Albion and Blairmont Estate to fill the existing vacancies. A Regional Maintenance Centre will be established in the region which will require several workers. Employees will be retained at the estate to maintain drainage and irrigation, and also to maintain the irrigation networks on the estate. She noted that some employees will be retained to maintain lands owned by the estate.
On the idea of leased lands, Thomas noted that five acres of land will be leased to all employees who are interested in farming and other cultivation. She further said that employees will be given the opportunity to form themselves into groups to provide contractual services to GuySuCo, for example, for providing maintenance and repairs to buildings, dams, bridges and other infrastructure belonging to the Rose Hall Estate, or other estates that are part of the corporation. She also pointed out that other contractual services may include the provision of harvesting gangs. According to Thomas, employees of the estate will be trained in various skills relating to contractual services, such as construction works, and farming.
It was explained, that employees who cannot be absorbed at Albion and Blairmont Estate, and will be left without employment, will be paid a severance, once they have more than one year’s service.
Meanwhile, one of the major issues raised at the meeting was workers’ attendance. According to Hutton Griffith, Estate Manager of Albion Estate and acting Estate Manager of Rose Hall Estate, workers over the past three years have struggled with attendance, noting that for the past three years attendance has always been in the 60% range.
Griffith pointed out that at the Rose Hall Estate 985 persons were on payroll for the first crop in 2016, however, he said, the average turnout was 570. The second crop for 2016, 951 persons were on payroll, while the average turnout was 561. The first crop in 2017, Griffith said, there was 918 persons on payroll, while the average turnout was 587.
He urged the few workers present to turn out to work for the second crop of 2017 which will begin at the end of week, since if any workers are to be paid severance pay, it will be calculated using their last 12 months earnings. Griffith also urged the workers to avoid striking, since this is the crop, they will need to put their all into. He challenged the workers to work to produce 20,000 tonnes of sugar.
During his presentation to the gathering, Griffith noted, that the Rose Hall Estate, was an “old girl,” and as such, needed much work which GuySuCo cannot afford.
A question and answer segment was held at the end of the programme, during which it was pointed out that presently Uitvlugt Estate has over 300 vacancies, one of the questions several workers asked was, “If Rose Hall Estate got the work force, why close it?” The officials present responded by highlighting again that while there is the “workforce” at the estate, workers’ attendance was poor.