One thing’s for certain: media coverage of the sugar issue is not where it ought to be at this time, and many of the experts I have spoken to, have advised me it has much to do with sugar being seen as a rural issue when the media houses are all based in Georgetown. I am humbly calling on the media house to spend some more time reporting on the sugar issues in the villages of Demerara and Berbice.
But that issue aside, one of the greatest betrayals of our people has taken place over the past two years under Dr Clive Thomas, and I speak directly to the way the sugar industry is being managed under this Granger regime. All humans have dreams, but when politicians like Thomas proceed along a road that sells false hope to the poor and the working class rather than practical realities, nothing good can come from it.
The sugar industry suffered under the poor leadership of Errol Hanoman, then Paul Bhim and then Raj Singh, all under the PPP. But what is worse is how the intensification of the suffering was allowed to happen again under Hanoman during this PNC-led regime. These actions by the Granger regime can be compared to turning the sword in the wound.
The damage done over the past two years under Dr Thomas and Mr Hanoman is unpardonable. When one reads of the false hope in an article published on September 7, 2017, in the state media one can only find words to the effect that the senior leadership in the industry has done a poor job of executing the solutions for the industry. In summary it has taken the industry backwards.
But Dr Thomas is proud to pronounce on “promised financing” from the Government of Guyana for diversification works. But why could this financing not be funnelled into an ethanol plant at Wales rather than a harebrained rice project at the same estate? We hear of capital investment to clean up the image of Enmore to make it more marketable for privatization. But why could this money not be pumped into the field, factory and packaging plant along with an initiative to conduct a heavy marketing push to make the Demerara Gold the sugar of choice at every coffee table across the Caribbean and even in Starbucks? We hear new moneys being pumped into NICIL to help with the privatization of Skeldon, but yet these textbook men could not explore joint venture opportunities to fix the factory once and for all with the Indians, build a sugar refinery and a new state-of-the-art wharf at Corriverton to make Berbice profitable as the producer of refined sugar for the Caribbean.
You see for years on the sugar belt it has always been about the personal vested interest of a few rather than the industry’s vested interest, and that is why it has failed. That is why I can never accept one word from Donald Ramotar on the sugar belt, and that is why I can never accept one word today from Clive Thomas; neither is credible on the sugar issue.
But even with the destruction caused by Dr Thomas and Mr Hanoman today, I still remain convinced that with much restructuring, the sugar belt can be saved, but the message has to be elevated to the front pages of the media and in the cabinet meetings.
That is why it is extremely important that GAWU ramp up its activism across the sugar belt and in Georgetown to bring this issue to the decision-making table for further deliberations. I have personally built a turnaround model in 2015 and have even revised it earlier this year after seeing the 2016 draft financial from GuySuCo. From that model, once it is resourced within 5 years GuySuCo can be cash neutral without shutting down factories.
The solution has always been moving upstream to value-added sugar-related products like ethanol, alcohol, refined sugar, agro energy and packaged sugar. Raw-sugar production in Guyana is dead, but value-added sugar related products are very much alive. Mr Hanoman has done nothing in the last 2 years to move the sugar industry up the value chain.