Existing GuySuCo employees do not have the capital, skills to grow other crops profitably

Dear Editor,

In letters which appeared in the news media on June 21 and 23 respectively, Tony Vieira, a former director of GuySuCo concluded that the corporation was on the skids and rapidly heading into the sunset as its incompetent management have poorly and hastily introduced mechanical harvesters to increase sugar production and productivity with what is left of its reduced cultivation and a dwindling, demoralized workforce.

During his tenure as a board member of GuySuCo, Mr Vieira was involved in its operation and development strategies and evidently concurred with many of the decisions which were taken to improve management and return the corporation to profitability. However, because of his ambitious and confrontational style, the board found him difficult to work with and he resigned although he was knowledgeable about the sugar industry, having spent most of his life working in various sectors of it.

As a freelancer now, Mr Vieira has stated that the corporation is planning to get out of sugar cultivation and diversify its holdings to something entirely new as management teams from Skeldon and Rose Hall Estates have been heading a task force to diversify their sugar lands. However, Ms Thomas, GuySuCo’s Senior Communications Officer, has stated in the news media that the corporation is not getting out of sugar and its diversification programme will focus on sugar production for local consumption and refinement, dairy farming, livestock production, cultivation of fruit crops, seed paddy and aquaculture. Mr Vieira stated his agreement that aquaculture, as well as ethanol production, were excellent diversification components for GuySuCo to pursue, but felt that the appropriate skills and expertise for technical and operational management were not available for such ventures, and any half-hearted attempts at diversification without proper planning and adequate financing will lead to failure as its existing management and staff were incompetent and weak to make any such transitions.

The APNU+AFC coalition is in its third year of governance and during this period it has failed to develop a workable plan for implementation to turn around its largest investment, GuySuCo, from its downward spiral although it had a number of options on the table to do so. The corporation is heavily indebted and cannot service its obligations and since the government has no business to be in business it should make every effort to privatize GuySuCo as soon as is possible. Sugar is being sold on the world market at about US$0.14 per lb while it is costing GuySuCo more than US$0.40 per lb to produce. Therefore, there is no way GuySuCo could lower its production cost to make sugar profitable again and the government cannot continue to heavily subsidize the industry indefinitely. It should acknowledge that GuySuCo does not have the finance and skilled labour force to diversify its sugar lands to cultivate other crops profitably or be involved in manufacturing. Aquaculture may appear feasible but investors should be encouraged to develop it and if there is money to be made they will get involved. Wherever ethanol is manufactured, it is heavily subsidized since it is more expensive to produce than gasolene. Presently, crude oil is being sold on the world market at under US$50 per barrel and the cost is projected to remain at this level for the foreseeable future.  Further, contrary to Mr Vieira’s claim, ethanol does not improve engines’ performance. In fact, it clogs engines injectors faster than gasolene does.

Finally, the next general election is due to be held in 2020. It is reasonable to assume that for political reasons, GuySuCo will not be allowed to go under before then, and it will continue to receive large government subsidies while it struggles to maintain production at the current level. The APNU+AFC government should be aware that existing GuySuCo employees do not have the capital or the skills to convert leased sugar lands to grow other crops profitably, even if they were offered this option, although Ms Thomas feels that this proposal has merits worthy of execution.

Yours faithfully,

Charles Sohan