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STILL TIME TO SAVE SUGAR: Stop Plans for Closure; Reopen Wales

On the evening of January 6, 2018, at the reception to observe India’s Republic Day, the Indian High Commissioner and Guyana’s President spoke at the event. Both of them alluded to India’s readiness to assist Guyana to develop the sugar industry.
That has put to rest some government spokesperson’s claim that they knew nothing of this, which I had mentioned on several occasions before. Now, all have admitted that the offer is there for the taking.

Therefore, there is no sound reason to continue the programme to close estates. Indeed, the argument can be made not just to halt that programme, but also to reopen Wales Estate. The reopening of the Wales Estate should be done now before its infrastructure is destroyed.

The task of GuySuCo’s management and the government is to clearly identify the help that is needed and to make concrete proposals to the Indian government and allow the industry to emerge from its present difficulties and become prosperous again.

In this regard, I wish to make some proposals, not exhaustive, but some which I think can help change the fortunes of the industry.

In the first place it is clear that we need to immune the industry from the crisis which has come from outside, that is mainly low prices on the international market.

To do so we have to move towards producing new products. The PPP/C administration had begun that process. It needs to be continued. New revenue stream must be persued.

One of the important products that can be produced by GuySuCo is ethanol. This offers great possibilities. Ethanol can take 10% of the gasoline that is imported for vehicles immediately. That would be a big revenue enhancement to GuySuCo.

The fact that GuySuCo is still state-owned and that we have in our hands GUYOIL, another state-owned company, helps to facilitate this easily. The two companies can partner to blend ethanol with gasoline and sell at the pumps. Both companies stands to gain greatly. Our country can save valuable foreign exchange in reducing our gasoline imports for vehicles and equipment by 10%.

This is another cost cutting measure for GuySuCo whose fuel bill is significant. It can use fuel that is produces.

Moreover, it is a product that can be exported to many countries. That can earn us quite a bit of foreign exchange and enhance GuySuCo’s fortunes greatly. GuySuCo was already pursuing value added policy.

We have established packaging plants at Blairmont and Enmore. That can allow us to get higher prices for our sugar and we can become independent of the world market prices. This process has gone a far way.

We have also seen the concern of Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) in relation to getting molasses for its own distillery. It is also a fact that Banks DIH Limited spends millions to import raw alcohol to produce its brand of rum.

It is clear that both or one of these companies can partner with GuySuCo to produce raw alcohol right here. It would save our country the foreign exchange that Banks DIH Ltd now expends to import this product. It could earn money by supplying alcohol to our hospitals and export to the Caribbean. Banks DIH Ltd and DDL are already branded product, therefore, our returns here would be great. We could get premium prices.

We have started the production of electricity from the baggasse at Skeldon. We can establish two others at Albion and Enmore to supply our grid! More revenue streams for GuySuCo. In the absence of the hydro-power project, this offers an important source of renewable energy.

Here again, the state-owned GuySuCo and GPL can partner to make this profitable for both companies. The social benefits of having reliable energy is incalculable. With cheaper energy more businesses can grow.

With such a project we can reduce the importation of fuel for electricity generation and even bring down the price to consumers. It is a win-win situation.

In the agriculture side of the business, Indian technical assistance can make a huge contribution. GuySuCo spends millions to import fertilizers for the sugarcane. India is using liquid fertilizers made from the cane leaves and other materials now thrown away. The cost is a fraction of fertilizers coming as a byproduct of fossil fuel. Here too the rice industry can benefit. It will reduce their costs appreciable.

We were experimenting with that while the PPP/C was in office. This is worth persuing with Indian technical assistance.

We were also in the process of buying a compactor for baggasse so that we would make ‘bricks’ from the baggasse and use them in our boilers to eliminate the use of wood. That would save millions for the company. Successful trails were already done with the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST) at the University of Guyana.

At the factory level, we need to do much re-capitalization. India is one for the largest producers of spare parts for sugar factories. Its prices are a fraction of the prices if parts are sourced from Europe and North America. This can be a major help to the industry and the country. It would help us to rapidly improve efficiency of the factories, increase recoveries and earn more.

One of the most important benefits is the amounts of jobs that could be created. Technical and good paying jobs for our youths leaving schools.

Right now, because GuySuCo is not hiring, graduates in agriculture from the University of Guyana cannot find employment. They are kicking bricks on the road.

If the regime can remove its animus towards sugar workers and the industry and view the situation objectively, we could see that sugar will still play a leading role in the development of Guyana. All our people stand to gain, directly and indirectly.

The Indian offer has now been acknowledged. Go for it and help our Guyanese people who are suffering from the lack of jobs and a slothful economy.

It is time to have a national conference on the future of the sugar industry and stop the closures.
Donald Ramotar, Former President

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