Reasons behind the horrible GuySuCo yields

Dear Editor,

I have tried to remain silent for three years, but it is becoming a problem and if I don’t release some of my pent up frustration I am afraid that I will burst. 

Today I want to address a letter in the May 18 Stabroek News entitled `Corporate governance at GuySuCo has been ripped apart’ by Sasenarine Singh.

To help make Mr. Singh’s point I will relay to the public two issues which showed me that the incompetence in and of GuySuCo is so thick you can cut it with a knife.

After the coalition came to power they held one of many very expensive COI’s to look into what had to be done with the Guyana sugar industry, everyone knows this, what is less known is that someone/something issued a directive that no husbandry work must be done in the industry until the COI’s findings were made public, and in fact no money was allocated by Government since GuySuCo was too far in debt to carry out these essential operations. The inquiry started in June of 2015 and lasted to October and the COI recommended that the industry should be privatized but Government decided not to accept that advice and delayed the situation another month. What I am saying is that it is my information that during the long months June to October/November 2015 when the first crop canes were growing in the fields no husbandry was done, since they were waiting for the results of the COI. The no husbandry included no fertilizer for 5-6 months which badly affected the 2016 first crop.

Since any recommendations which the COI could have arrived at, could not possibly be that we should just abandon the sugar industry, not doing husbandry to fast growing cane was absolutely nonsensical and the disaster went over to the 2016 and 2017 first crops as well, so in the end this COI was one of the reasons we damaged the first crops in the Guyana industry so badly.

This example, of course, exposes the shortcomings of Government more than the sugar managers, but it is my opinion that the highly paid managers had it within their power, the means to alert the government to the dangers of not releasing money to do husbandry in the first crop of 2015. So the Interim Management Committee failed to get the government especially the Ministry of Agriculture to understand the gravity of the situation.

When I was appointed to the Board the first thing I wanted an answer to was the declining yield of the sugar corporation. Unlike others I did not go into this position to learn, I know the Guyana industry and and Mr. Robert Corbin had asked me to shadow Robert Persaud as Minister of Agriculture when I was in parliament so I was familiar with the problems of the corporation and I had commented many times on it, but data was not very forthcoming from the PPP so on entering the boardroom I asked for the yield of all cane in the 2014 year, by cycle i.e. plants; 1st ratoons; 2nd ratoons; 3rd ratoons; 4th ratoons, and all other ratoons. Now GuySuCo has a planting programme of 20% of its cultivation each year, so theoretically they should have in the industry at any one time 20% plant cane; 20% 1st ratoons; 20% 2nd ratoons; 20% 3rd ratoons; and 20 % 4th ratoons. Because it was a 20% replant policy theoretically therefore there should not be any canes which were more than 4th ratoon but due to bad weather, unavailability of machines etc. they had quite a bit of the cultivation older than 4th ratoons.  For those who don’t know, a ratoon is simply the regrowth after harvesting, so ploughing and replanting only happens to any field every five years.

What I found, which was not very surprising, was that all the yields were bad in all cycles, since it is unreasonable to expect that a poor yielding plant cane field would grow into an excellent 1st ratoon. In fact I know a man [my father] who returned his estate to 400% more yield of cane and sugar in 4 years. Mr. Yesu Persaud in a letter to my brother Bruce called it an inspired performance. The key to this improved performance was growing excellent plant cane, from excellently prepared plant fields.

But the real problem which came as a surprise was that if one took the low plant field yields and made it 100%, the yield of the 1st ratoon was 15% less, and the 2nd ratoon was 30% less, and incredibly all later ratoons followed this same 30% less yield decline. So the benefits of the land preparation and replanting were not beneficial after the second year of replanting. So I asked the Board for permission to see the land preparation practices first hand, and when I did, I began to understand the reasons for the horrible GuySuCo yield.

I will not go into any great detail of everything that I found and there were numerous examples, but I will give one example, I said to a very high official of GuySuCo who was accompanying me on the trip, that it seemed to me that the tractors were not handling the ploughs well, it seemed to me that they needed more power, I was told that the plough needs 180 HP and the tractor was 180 HP. Knowing that I was seeing a phenomenon where the tractor was not capable of pulling the plough, I consulted my books on the matter and got the specifications of the John Deere tractor and the plough from the internet. It took me less than one hour to understand the situation, which was that I was dealing with total ignorance! Yes, the plough needed 180 HP to pull it, but no, a 180 HP tractor cannot pull it. A four wheeled tractor like the John Deere I saw in the field uses around 25% of its power to just walk and carry the weight of the machine, it also needs horsepower for the alternator, the hydraulic pump, the water pump to cool the engine etc. So in fact this plough needed 180 draw bar horsepower which is what should be left when you deduct the horsepower being used to make the machine operate. The 180 horsepower tractor GuySuCo was using which when the above operational deductions are made was maybe as little as 120-130 HP at the drawbar to pull a plough which needs 180 drawbar horsepower.

The institutional level of knowledge at GuySuCo is abysmally low even at the highest levels.

I don’t know editor. These people cannot even grow sugar cane which we have been doing for 300 years. To put these same people to diversify GuySuCo is madness.

Yours faithfully,

Tony Vieira  

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