Agriculture minister Robert Persaud on Wednesday sought to bolster confidence in the sugar industry even as he warned private cane farmers that the opposition parties will sell out the industry if they come into power.

“There are those who have already been quietly talking to people external, giving them some hope that should they be elected what they will be selling off. They’ll be perhaps using what we call a garage sale and selling off pieces and dismantle the sugar industry.

He was at the time addressing the farmers at the launch of a GUY$10M revolving fund at Red House, Kingston.

According to Persaud, the PNC was about to sell the industry for US$25M when the PPP came to power in 1992 and that is what will happen should the opposition return to power.

Persaud’s words were not without some basis as APNU presidential candidate David Granger has said as much at a meeting with private sector representatives. He also identified the state-run Guyana Oil Company (GUYOIL) and the state media as entities that would be privatised under a Granger-led administration.

But the minister said there are positive signs for the industry despite the problems being experienced at the Skeldon factory. He reiterated the need for external expertise to fix the problems at the US$200M factory which has been beset by mechanical difficulties.

“Generally the outlook though for the industry is very bright going forward, we have some of the best prices internationally. We just cannot have enough sugar to supply, people from as far of as the Middle East and Africa and Asia are turning up at our doors looking to buy sugar.

Some of them are even looking to invest in the sugar industry and already we’ve received proposals from persons for them to come and even to produce sugar here in Guyana and looking for large areas of land so there’s much interest externally in our own sugar industry,” Persaud said.

However, he added that the management and the culture within the industry must be improved and that requires a total buy in by all stakeholders.

GuySuCo CEO Paul Bhim also addressed the farmers, apprising them of the situation with the beleaguered Skeldon factory. Bhim stated that one of their limitations in doing the corrective works is that they have to be done during the out of crop period.

“A lot of the works would probably take about two months to complete so we certainly can’t shut the factory down, leave the canes in the field and concentrate on fixing the factory while we have a crop on,” the CEO said.

He added that during the December to February off period work will be done on the process house and the punt dumper with the former being quite problematic at the moment. Bhim said two experts are coming in next Wednesday.

“Tate and Lyle our largest sugar customer is actually facilitating that visit and we are going to have a look at the process house to see why we’re losing so much sugar and sugar going into the molasses,” Bhim added.

He noted that the pump dumper has been problematic since the factory started and representatives from the manufacturers are expected from the US early next month.

“So we do have a plan to try and fix Skeldon, it’s going to take time, it’s not going to happen overnight,” the CEO said.

Bhim also mentioned the rising price of sugar and molasses on the international market while noting that Tate and Lyle has been offering higher prices for the sugar which will be passed on to the farmers.

source: demerarawaves


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