Guyana is seeking India’s support to help renew economic and social stability for thousands of retrenched workers and their families as plans to reopen the sugar estates advance.
Earlier today, Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha and the Indian High Commissioner to Guyana, His Excellency Dr. K.J. Srinivasa toured the Blairmont, Rose Hall and Skeldon Sugar Estates in Regions Five and Six.
“I’m hoping that we can have help from India in terms of both personnel and technical [assistance],” the Minister disclosed.
Minister Mustapha further revealed he has formally written Dr. Srinivasa and, once approved, the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) will have experts to assist at the factory level and crop cultivation.
“He [the High Commissioner] is very inclined in doing it, but we have to wait and see the results for those proposed requests that we have made,” the Minister added.
The Agriculture Ministry is also exploring public-private partnerships to create a modern, diversified industry.
“We have already published in the newspaper Expressions of Interests for these estates. So, hopefully we can have the Private Sector coming on board,” the Minister said. He added that he was heartened following a meeting with the Private Sector Commission and the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce at which they expressed interest in investing in GuySuCo.
Minister Mustapha and Dr. Srinivasa learnt from the management team that the Rose Hall Sugar Estate will be able to produce sugar as early as the end of 2021, while Skeldon is looking at sugar production by the first crop of 2022.
In 2017, a decision was made by the then Coalition Government to close four of seven sugar estates, triggering the largest retrenchment in Guyana’s post-Independence history.
Minster Mustapha explained that the operating estates are only working at 40-60 per cent capacity, due to mismanagement and the implementation of poor policies.
However, Government has already set aside $5 billion for the reviving of the sugar industry by injecting capital into those estates still operating and investing into those that were closed. It has also installed new management, led by Acting Chairman, Mr. Sasenarine Singh, to maximise the industry’s potential.
“As a result of that we are seeing work commenced rapidly in those estates that we plan to reopen and GuySuCo has started to re-hire workers. At Rose Hall they have hired over 125 workers already. At Skeldon here I have just been informed by Mr. Vishnu Panday that he has employed more than 100 workers and by the end of this year, he will employ within 200-300 more workers, to prepare the cultivation,” Minister Mustapha said.
GuySuCo has already started cultivation at estates including Skeldon and Rose Hall. The Minister is also engaging cane farmers who formerly produced 32 per cent of the crop used by GuySuCo. Those farmers are expected to get financial aid to restart their production.
In addition, the packaging plant at Enmore and Blairmont Estates are up and running.
Minister Mustapha said the current goal is to break even in production profits as the estate begins to revamp and then to see more profitable gains when the estate reaches full potential.
“I’m extremely happy that the commitments that we have made in our manifesto [are] now being realised slowly here,” the Minister said.