Options for preserving the sugar industry

Dear Editor,

In the media the government is asking for viable options for the closed estates.  We have already seen the despair and the negative economic impact of this large-scale retrenchment of workers, such as never been seen in our country or at least in my lifetime.

Also I had read in one of the newspapers that the Agriculture Minister, during his Budget 2018 contribution said, that with the closure of the estates in 2017 and the research, restructuring and other efficiency changes, yields for 2018 would be up by some 48%.  Thus, I expect with these changes GuySuCo should be returned to profitability, sooner rather than later.

I am maintaining that these terminations have nothing to do with the losses GuySuCo is incurring, but more with the closure of the sugar industry to weaken the political base of the PPP/C. Nevertheless, as the government is saying, that it will welcome viable options, we should present options for the closed estates and thus the saving of the industry.

I am a believer in the old proverb, ‘where there is a will there is a way’, if the government is willing I am sure the workers will find the way to remain producers rather than a burden on anyone.

I would like to see the closed estates handed over to the workers and within the following parameters.

  • The estates be handed over to the workers and the government takes a commensurate percentage of the company
  • Government makes a loan of US$18 million available to the new company with a 5-year moratorium on payments to the government
  • The workers put half of their severance in the new company with bonds or shares for their contributions
  • The workers hire a competent management team
  • That GuySuCo be mandated to buy the production from these estates for at least five years
  • Government compensate the new sugar entity for maintaining drainage and other infrastructure works which are not solely for cane production.

This may sound simplistic; however, it is the start of ideas for work towards the preservation of jobs, the preservation of the industry and the creation of wealth.  The potential for such an option could be unlimited. It could be the start of a fully integrated, worker led, private ownership in the sugar sector.

Yours faithfully,

Manzoor Nadir

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