The threat to close GuySuCo and sugar must be resoundingly rejected

WE will never close the sugar industry in Guyana. Sugar has been good to Guyana and sugar will still be good to Guyana in the future. I am proud that the PPP/C has been consistent and unambiguous that sugar is a priority for Guyana’s continued growth. Our position is not only that sugar will continue to be a major part of Guyana’s economic and social growth, but will be a leading light in moving Guyana upwards towards high middle income status.Donald Ramotar and the PPP/C have been clear and resolute that we must invest in the sugar industry, not only for sugar to overcome present local and global challenges, but for sugar to surpass its best previous glory days. In the next five years, we will invest $20B to help GuySuCo in its upward trajectory to greater glory than ever in its history. We will surpass 350,000 tons of sugar, more than 50,000 tons of packaged specialty sugar, produce more than 100,000 litres of bio-ethanol and more than 20MW of clean bio-energy by 2020.
Any talk of closing GuySuCo and ending Guyana’s production of sugar is irresponsible and demonstrates a startling ignorance of what the sugar industry means to Guyana and the Guyanese people. Such talk ought never to be on the table. There ought to never even be a debate on whether sugar is still relevant in Guyana. I do hope that the wild talk of closing sugar is just idle talk and my fervent hope is that it is off the table, once and for all.
The vulgar talk of closing sugar was formally started by a former shadow Minister of Agriculture from the PNC. Last year, he repeated the call at a Press Conference hosted by APNU, the new name under which the PNC hides its identity. At that Press Conference, he called for the closure of sugar and its replacement with tilapia cultivation in the cane fields. The AFC immediately came out to support this position. In the 2014 National Budget debate, I challenged APNU and AFC to dissociate either or both parties from that statement which was made at an official APNU press conference at its headquarters. No speaker that spoke on behalf of APNU or AFC and who spoke on sugar dissociated themselves or APNU and AFC from that position.
Again a few weeks ago, almost exactly one year after the APNU Press Conference statement calling on the Government to close sugar, a former PNC Prime Ministerial Candidate called for the closure of the sugar industry and replacing sugar with quinoa cultivation. Again, as the Minister in charge of sugar I called on APNU and AFC to state categorically their position on Mr. Ming’s demand that sugar be closed. Neither parties, nor their Presidential and Prime Ministerial candidates, have dissociated themselves from another reprehensible call to close the sugar industry.
At different places and in different settings, the APNU+AFC Presidential and Prime Ministerial candidates say different things. At a luncheon hosted by the Private Sector Commission, Mr. Granger disregarded his party’s official position and stated that sugar was “too big to fail”, a position which the PPP/C has consistently maintained. At the Whim Rally, they re-stated that they would not close sugar. But the position has been different in Essequibo and Linden and other non-sugar places. They have never also stated whether they will invest in sugar.
In addition, AFC candidates on the APNU+AFC Lists have given mixed and inconsistent signals on their Berbice TV daily harangue. This past week, Mr. Bissessar claimed they will develop aquaculture in the cane fields. Veerasammy Ramaya hurriedly cut Bissessar off by saying that did not mean they will cultivate tilapia. What aquaculture they will practise is left for our imagination. Not to be outdone, Mr. Charandass asked people if their families from America supported them to operate a business, but the business is losing money, would it not be closed. This was another vulgar threat to close the sugar industry.
Why is it that the Opposition cannot be unequivocal on this matter? It is because there is a hidden agenda to close sugar, but they are afraid to say it where sugar workers are. They seem to think they can fool sugar workers, like the AFC did in 2011. When they threatened to block the sugar subsidy in the 2014 budget, it took the solidarity of sugar workers in protest to scare them.
Shutting down GuySuCo would have a disastrous impact on the economic and social development of Guyana. More than 100,000 people directly depend on GuySuCo. One or more persons in about 20,000 families depend on GuySuCo for employment. Think of when GuySuCo is out of crop and businesses in Regions, 3,4, 5 and 6 complain about slow business. GuySuCo is the major drainage and irrigation provider in our country, not only for sugar, but also other agriculture and for residential comfort. GuySuCo provides health care services and still is a major provider of sports facilities in Guyana.
These irresponsible people also do not think about what they plan to do. Do they know that closing sugar will also mean closing down RUM? DDL and DIH depend on molasses for rum production. Where will they obtain this raw material to make their rum? The best rum in the world will also disappear if we close sugar. What about the fledgling manufacturing industry which will need to import sugar? People will have to pay more for many things – food, pastries, jams, etc. What about everyone else in their homes who will suddenly have to pay more than four times to buy imported sugar for domestic uses?
The PPP/C is clear, in good times and bad, we stand sugar strong. We will never support any move to close sugar. We will invest whatever is necessary to keep sugar strong. For the PPP/C Sugar Strong is not an option; it is an imperative.

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