JUST as the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) was starting to recover from years of neglect, fiscal deprivation and some amount of dismantling, the country has been hit with an unprecedented disaster in the form of the ongoing floods. As a result, the entity is now grappling with a loss of approximately $1.2 billion in sugarcane crops.
This confirmation was given on Friday by the corporation’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Sasenarine Singh, who explained that most of the damage was done to the young canes located at the
Albion Sugar Estate, East-Berbice Corentyne. In an interview with the Guyana Chronicle, Singh explained that while persistent rainfall has affected all three of the grinding facilities, water levels have since lowered at Blairmont, West Coast Berbice, and at Uitvlugt, West Coast Demerara.
At Albion, however, some 90 per cent of the canefields remain inundated with as much as five feet of water, resulting in the estate recording a plant mortality rate of 80 per cent. “This will have an impact on two crops, and may be more,” Singh admitted.
He said that at Albion, the team is projecting approximately 25 to 30 per cent destruction of the second crop. This projection, he said, could escalate once water recedes and a proper assessment can be done.
The damage at Albion is likely to be cushioned by the combined sugar production at the Blairmont and Uitvlugt estates, both of which have recorded only 10 per cent damage in crops.
With production at Albion forced into a premature wrap-up, preliminary figures are predicting a countrywide shortfall of at least 10,000 tonnes of sugarcane during this second crop. “While we targeted 54,000 tonnes, we foresee only being able to make 40 to 45,000 tonnes,” Singh indicated.
He said that earlier in the year, during the first crop, GuySuCo was pursuing a production target of 42, 608 tonnes of sugar; however, only 29,750 tonnes were harvested, thereby resulting in a shortfall of some 12,958 tonnes of sugar. “Whenever it rains, production collapses,” Singh reminded.
Given the unavoidable circumstances, the GuySuCo CEO said that the country’s overall sugar production for this year is estimated to be in the vicinity of 72,000 to 75,000 tonnes – the lowest in the corporation’s history.
EXPECTING A TOTAL WIPE OUT
He said that even beyond this year, the ongoing rains will undoubtedly put a damper on the first
crop for 2022. “We are expecting a total wipe out of that crop at Albion,” a disappointed Singh related. He explained that even though GuySuCo has been battling heavy rainfall since late March, every possible effort was made to persevere with production. Unfortunately, in May, the corporation was forced to prematurely wrap up its second crop for the year. “This is because of the persistent torrential raining,” Singh added.
He went further to produce official data which outlined that since the rains began, the Albion Estate has recorded at least 80 millimetres of rainfall. “In March, we usually have like 10 -15 millimetres, but things got very bad in May,” the GuySuCo CEO related. In addition to facing heavy rainfall, the situation at the estate intensified as a result of overtopping from the Canje Creek, as well as excess water being drained from the Kokerite Savannah which is located behind the estate.
Singh explained that traditionally, the Kokerite Savannah is drained via the Canje Creek; however, with that creek surpassing its maximum capacity, the excess water can only be released via the estate.
Yudi Persaud, GuySuCo’s Field Operations Director, explained that the drainage system for the Albion Estate is only designed to drain 1.5 inches or approximately 37 millimetres of water daily; from March to present, the location has experienced 100 millimetres of water.
As it relates to the estate’s flood-response mechanisms, Persaud said that the Albion Estate is currently pumping approximately 4.5 million tonnes of water daily. Even though this might seem laudable, the estate is faced with double that amount of water penetrating the sugarcane fields and making its way into the estate. “This is water that are [sic] coming from the Canje Creek and the Kokerite Savannah,” Persaud reminded. Meanwhile, Singh explained that even as the team at the Albion Estate is working to minimise flooding there, its drainage infrastructure is also aiding in minimising the level of floodwaters reaching Albion residents residing around the estate.
The CEO indicated that a substantial amount of the recently approved $1.5 billion supplementary budget for GuySuCo will be directed towards strengthening the drainage infrastructure at all six sugar estates across the country. Most especially, the facility at Albion, which has now been recognised as being highly susceptible to flooding.