Leadership has failed in the sugar industry

Dear Editor,

The major factor contributing to losses in the sugar industry remains leadership that failed to bring common sense to bear on the changing global market conditions. All this loose talk of workers and weather is just that, idle talk.  Jock Campbell and the Bookers boys in the 1960s and 1970s also had major weather and workers’ challenges, but yet their production was generally over 300,000 tonnes of sugar.

GuySuCo’s senior leadership failed to handle two fundamental issues over the last decade – the aftermath of the 2005 floods that brought havoc to the fields, and fixing that albatross around the neck of the industry, the Skeldon Sugar Factory.  If stability had been brought to these two issues very early during the Raj Singh era, GuySuCo would have had far more time and resources to climb up the value chain into the sugar derivatives market, which is where it ought to be (ethanol, refined sugar, alcohol, sugar tourism, agro-energy and so on).

Let me be absolutely clear: raw unrefined cane sugar production is dead in Guyana.  But yet since 2016, all Team Hanoman has done at GuySuCo is complain, continue to produce raw unrefined cane sugar, fail to reposition the sugar industry up the value chain, and now waste billions on a doomed agricultural adventure – producing rice on sugar cane lands.  Utter insanity!

This Granger administration, which has access to more enlightened strategies, refuses to move away from this doomed strategy, which is taking the sugar belt to the point of self-implosion. Do not take my word for it, look at the productivity and production in the industry in 2016 compared to all the years since 1990; it was the lowest and the worst in 26 years (see graph below).

If one looks at the graph above, one can find that the record of all PNC governments has been pathetic, and it is for a clear reason: they failed to engage the workers’ union in all major decisions.  A house divided will never succeed, and today Guyana is on the road to total and absolute failure if this pig-headedness continues under an aloof and arrogant Noel Holder who remains clueless strategically on what needs to be done in the sugar industry.

But I must commend the Granger administration for one green shoot of success on the sugar belt, that happened at the end of 2016.  Under the instructions of President Granger, Minister Ramjattan was asked to lead a delegation to engage stakeholders on the solutions for the sugar belt ‒ 500 days too late, but better late than never.  I celebrate this initiative and want to commend the Granger administration for taking this vital step towards bringing a common sense decision to bear on the challenges in the industry.

Under Errol Hanoman, GuySuCo continues to suffer from defective leadership that has failed on many levels, from getting a grip of the systemic challenges in the field to bringing stability to the Skeldon Sugar Factory, to moving the industry up the value chain.  Divestment is a fool’s strategy; it will just end up in ghost towns on the sugar belt which is not good for Guyana socially and economically.

I am again calling on President Granger to engage competent talent in the industry and seek skilful analysis of critical performance data to drive a stabilization strategy.  Since  Raj Singh, who was bankrupt of ideas, has left the corporation, the condition of the industry has gotten even worse, which means that the current leadership at GuySuCo is even more bankrupt in terms of ideas to stabilize the industry.

When will they bring real talent into the industry and stop playing politics with the lives of 15,000 families in rural Guyana?

Yours faithfully,

Sase Singh

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