Consultations under way …to determine future of sugar industry

The delegations in the boardroom of the Ministry of Agriculture during their discussion.

A TEAM from the Government, the parliamentary Opposition, the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), the Guyana Agricultural and Workers’ Union (GAWU) and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) met on Saturday as consultations begin to determine a way forward for the sugar industry. At the end of the meeting, which was held at the Ministry of Agriculture, all parties expressed satisfaction at the move by Government to hold consultations and the proceedings of the initial meeting, a release from the Ministry of the Presidency noted.
Leading the Government team, Vice-President and Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, noted at the end of the meeting that Cabinet took the decision at its last sitting to have the consultations begin at the soonest possible time. Registering his satisfaction with this initial meeting, the minister said that consultations are being conducted to ensure that the best interest of all stakeholders will be considered.
“I am happy to state that indeed it was very civilised. We made a major decision at last Cabinet that we do have to have consultations and it will be extended now. The documentation that we gave them as to the options proposed to us by GuySuCo has been shared and they said that they needed time to study it and we agreed with that, because they only got them this morning [Saturday].
“They have asked for some further additional reports and studies, as to what made GuySuCo come to the decision and to set out these options. I agree with them because they must have source documents and so it is important that they be part and parcel of the decision-making or at least know how we are thinking and that is important. I am very pleased with the entirety of the meeting,” Minister Ramjattan was quoted as saying by the Ministry of the Presidency.
Additionally, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, echoed Minister Ramjattan’s sentiments, noting that despite the late notice, members of the Opposition, the unions and the estates still attended and were actively involved in the discussions, which will ultimately result in decisions being taken with regard to the sugar industry.
“I think they all understand what the position is. We shared documents with them and I believe that we are going to have some fruitful consultations going forward, since the [sugar] industry is a very important industry. It is of national significance and so decisions that are made in that regard must take into consideration those factors,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the Opposition team, General-Secretary of the PPP, Clement Rohee, noted the livelihood of thousands of Guyanese will be affected by any outcome.
According to the release, Head of GAWU, Komal Chand, said that the union [and] its members are satisfied that the Government has reached out to host consultations before coming to a final decision on the industry.
“We were assured by the Government delegation that what they have are mere proposals and the proposals are for discussions and it is not a case where decisions are made and we are going through an exercise and that is satisfactory to us. We recognise that consultations have taken place and we take [the] fact that the proposals are not final. That is acceptable to us,” he said.
According to the release, notwithstanding the proposals put forward by GuySuCo, the Government has encouraged the Opposition and unions to make their own recommendations based on all the information available on the state of the industry. A date and time for the next meeting will be determined after the Opposition and unions have had time to peruse the documents.
The Government team was led by Vice-President and Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan and included Minister of State, Joseph Harmon; Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder; Minister of Social Protection, Volda Lawrence; Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman; Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin and Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Jaipaul Sharma.
The Opposition team was led by General-Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party, Clement Rohee and included Irfaan Ali, Dharamkumar Seeraj and Juan Edghill. GAWU and NAACIE were represented by their heads, Komal Chand and Kenneth Joseph, respectively. Representatives from the various sugar estates including Wales, Albion, Skeldon, Enmore and Uitvlugt were also present.