— expected from Rose Hall when estate begins grinding at full capacity
WORK has commenced at the shuttered Rose Hall Sugar Estate which is expected to produce between 8,000 to 10,000 tonnes of sugar in the first year of operation.
The Rose Hall Estate will be the first of the three estates closed by the former APNU+AFC administration to re-open and is expected to begin grinding in 2022.
In 2017, the APNU+AFC Coalition Government had announced the closure of several sugar estates across the country, leaving thousands of persons without a job or source of income. The move saw four sugar estates being closed and 7,000 sugar workers losing their jobs.
In keeping with the new People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government’s commitment to re-opening those estates and revitalising the ailing sugar industry, the corporation has successfully started work at the Rose Hall Estate, said acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GuySuCo, Sasenarine Singh.
The Rose Hall Estate, prior to its closure, was ‘home’ to some 2,500 sugar workers, but 1,181 of those were retrenched. The remaining workers from the Rose Hall Estate were transferred to Blairmont Estate over in West Coast Berbice and Albion Estate on the Corentyne.
It is expected that these workers will be rehired, and GuySuCo has already announced that it will be rehiring 400 workers by December.
“What we are doing right now is to start planting feeding materials and then use those planting materials to create more planting materials and in the process we will be able to have enough planting materials to cover 80 per cent of the cultivation…with that 80 per cent of the cultivation in the ground, we are expecting to start grinding with that amount,” said Singh during an exclusive interview with the Guyana Chronicle on Saturday.
The Rose Hall Sugar Estate is capable of producing up to 38,000 tonnes of sugar, but the acting CEO said the estate will be starting the “first grinding year” with about 8,000 to 10,000 tonnes of sugar. And, as cultivation increases, production will be ramped up to 38,000.
“Well to get back into sugar production, that’s the bottom line, but what we want to do is to move more up the value chain into packaged sugar…so right across the river from Rose Hall there is a packaging plant at Blairmont, so we want to leverage that more,” said Singh.
But even as the corporation looks to initiate production and other projects, the reality remains that factories, structures and even cultivation at those shuttered estates are in “dire need” of capital intervention as they were “starved of funding”.
“The all-weather roads are in bad shape, the dams are in bad shape, the canals are heavily deteriorated, many of the bridges are not in good condition and the punt fleet is limping along so it needs urgent renewal,” Singh lamented.
He was, however, grateful for government’s budgetary support for GuySuCo. The government has allocated $5B to GuySuCo.
Of that amount, Singh explained that $800 million will support the operating factories and $2.2 billion will go towards the shuttered Rose Hall, Enmore and Skeldon estates. The $800 million allocation will fund capital work at the operational estates. And, given that the budget was approved on Friday, GuySuCo has “gone to tender” to get the capital work started.
Singh said a full business plan for the industry is being crafted, and is expected to be presented to the corporation’s board of directors in October.
Once the business plan is completed, the corporation will start implementing aspects of it ‘minutely’.
“I think the challenge in dealing with a complex situation like what we found at GuySuCo is, there are many plans, there are many feasibility studies, but where they failed all the time was at the point of implementation so that is where I’m going to pay very focused attention to.
“I want to make sure that the implementation is done because it is driving two factors: one is we want to push the revenue proposition up the ladder to be selling at the right price point and the right kind of products, not selling raw sugar but mostly selling things like packaged sugar and bag sugar and hopefully in the medium term going into a refinery,” said Singh.
The other thing he plans to focus on is the entire value chain within GuySuCo, and establish where the non-value-added activities are and weed them out. Singh believes that he will accomplish this even with the three estates which were closed by the past administration.
Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha, had argued that the closure of those estates created an unprecedented economic situation, depriving the economy of billions; reducing sugar production by nearly 60 per cent, losing nearly the same amount in foreign exchange; and created a multitude of social problems.
“The closed estates were simply abandoned, machinery and equipment sold; billions of dollars of sugarcane are now permanently destroyed; vital infrastructure has fallen apart; equipment in good condition, worth millions, was sold as scrap at certain locations; and money was withheld from GuySuCo,” Minister Mustapha lamented.
Contrary to where it is today, GuySuCo, “in its glory days,” was referred to as the backbone of Guyana’s economy, as the company employed roughly 16,000 persons, was a major source of foreign currency, and a major provider of community healthcare, drainage services, and welfare facilities.
The industry has since been reduced to a level of insolvency and instability, but the new government believes there is still hope, although there are production challenges – low productivity; high cost of production; lack of competitiveness and poor management
In the next five years, starting with Budget 2020, government plans to implement measures to promote a diversified agriculture-based economy; create more jobs; and increase the income of farmers.