GuySuCo must run as a business

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…Pres Granger steers clear from bourgeoisie-dominated board

THE Board of Directors of the Guyana Sugar Corporation’s (GuySuCo) will comprise experienced persons in the area of sugar production, and not persons who are socially prominent, President David Granger said while stating that the industry must be treated as a business.

There has been much conjecture over the board of the corporation since an advertisement was earlier this year publicised with the names of persons purportedly as directors.

However, it would seem the full Cabinet did not approve the directors and since then there has not been agreement on the composition of the board. Among those who were listed as directors on the unapproved board were: Head of the Special Purpose Unit (SPU) Colvin Heath-London who was named chairman. The other directors were listed as: Komal Singh; Verna Adrian; Fritz McLean; Rosh Khan (jr); George Jervis; Arianne McLean; Vishnu Panday; Annette Arjoon-Martins and two executives from GuySuCo.

The sugar industry, which, over the years, has fallen on tough times, was among issues brought to the fore when the President hosted a news conference at the Ministry of the Presidency on Friday. “GuySuCo is important to us. We have said that we are not shutting down the sugar industry, it is being reformed,” the President told reporters while noting under his Government the larger estates in East Berbice, West Berbice and West Demerara are being maintained.

Under this Government, the Sugar Industry has been reduced to three estates and factories –Blairmont on the West Bank of Berbice, Albion-Rose Hall in East Berbice and the Uitvlugt-Wales Estate in West Demerara.

Earlier this month, the former Director of Agricultural Services, Dr. Harold Davis Jnr was appointed GuySuCo’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and it is expected that soon, a new board will be appointed comprising persons knowledgeable in the field.

“There has been a tendency or a temptation in the past to put persons who might be socially prominent but this is a business, this is an international industry, we have to compete with other sugar producers,” President Granger said.

Under the watch of Dr. Davis and the incoming board, the President anticipates that the corporation will return to profitability. With a workforce of about 10, 000 persons, the President noted that GuySuCo is projected to produce about 147,000 to 150,000 tonnes of sugar annually. He believed that with better management, the Sugar Industry will stand the test of time, and return as a competitive force on the international market.

Shortly after taking office, Dr. Davis said GuySuCo will be moving to increase its competitiveness with the production of high-value sugars – plantation white and direct consumption. Precursor to this will be increased sugarcane yields to beyond 70 tonnes per hectare. Already, a land-development programme, which commenced under Dr. Davis’s watch while he was Agriculture Director, is being carried out in a highly technically sound manner, the Agriculture Ministry said in a release.

It noted that improving the capacity of the workforce through training and development is a high priority item on Dr. Davis’ agenda, in addition to attracting high-quality skills to support modernisation of the corporation.

The tasks at hand for Dr. Davis, the ministry stated, are to modernise the three remaining estates which are the production centres. This will entail transforming infrastructure, agricultural and other practices and retooling factories.

In an effort to create and deliver more value, co-generation facilities will be constructed, the factory at the Albion Estate will be upgraded to produce plantation white sugar and consideration will be given to the expansion of production at the Blairmont Estate to accommodate increased production of direct-consumption sugars, among others.

Feasibility studies on co-generation have been completed for two factories and a further study will be conducted on the third. The first co-generation project will commence on Albion Estate within the planned period. “In terms of the process for achieving his goals and objectives, focus will be on the establishment of a sound, highly skilled management team with a range of relevant expertise. The production centres – estates– are the core of the business and strong teams will be built around providing the requisite support to achieve and surpass the 147,000 tonnes production target by 2021,” the ministry explained.

“This approach is guided by GuySuCo’s new ‘Sustainable Business Model,’ which focuses on achieving a Triple Bottom Line (TBL) – economic/financial, environmental and social and ensures more accountability in all three areas and adding more structure around becoming a more environmentally sensitive business, as well as cost reduction.”

Dr. Davis holds a BSc. in Chemistry from the University of West Indies and a PhD in Soil Chemistry from the University of Reading (UK). He has previously worked for Bookers Agriculture International in the United Kingdom, returned to Guyana in 1981 and has worked in various capacities in GuySuCo, before leaving in 2010 as the agriculture research director. Since then, he has undertaken consultancy assignments in several countries. In 2016, he consented to undertaking an assignment of agriculture consultant to Guysuco and subsequently accepted the position as agriculture director. He brings a wealth of experience in agriculture and project management to lead implementation of the programme to modernise GuySuCo.

Dr. Davis takes over the reins from Mr. Paul Bhim, who was one of the members of the Interim Management Committee (IMC), established in 2015 to focus on redefining and to some extent redesigning a more sustainable pathway for GuySuCo; with particular focus on a direction for a more financially sound business. Hence, the particular skills required for the IMC members were: sound financial backgrounds, a good knowledge of the sugar industry and market-oriented competence.