Dear Editor,

For decades Uitvlugt was the estate with the highest rainfall, the worst lands, the poorest drainage and consequently the lowest yield in the Guyana sugar industry, whilst Skeldon was the best yielding estate of cane and sugar per acre and was the flagship of Bookers and then GuySuCo from 1976.

Last year and in 2010 the sugar industry in Guyana failed to produce 230,000 tons when as recently as 2004 we produced 325,000 tons, showing a steep decline in production since 2004.

As of the weekend of May 6, 2012 the Guyana sugar industry produced a total of 67,299 tonnes of sugar, a new low in first crop production for over 20 years. Last year, 2011, at the end of the first crop the industry had produced 106,627 tonnes of sugar!

This is nearly the middle of May 2012 and the first crop of the sugar industry is not finished and they are reaping canes in this May-June rainy season. They did it last year as well and I warned that it was not good practice and the results would be disastrous – they were.

Economists tell us that it is not how much sugar we produce it’s how much it costs to produce it that counts. Reaping cane in the wet is bad practice since after reaping, the fields are exposed to the rainfall on the bare land which encourages soil compaction and poor regrowth; it also washes away fertilizers, promotes weed growth, etc. I will not even go into the compaction of the soil in the fields resulting in poor regrowth from having the cane-cutters walking all over the wet soil of the inter-rows to fetch the cane out of the fields.

In addition, because of the intermittent grinding due to the low rate of harvesting in the rain,the factory becomes completely uneconomical to operate, so why do it? To save face? And only three factories produced sugar during the week ending May 6, 2012, Rose Hall produced 79 tonnes; Blairmont produced 139 tonnes; and Enmore produced 156 tonnes! What is the point of keeping these factories grinding through the rain with these ridiculously low weekly performance figures? It‘s expensive, it’s wasteful and it’s very poor management since it does untold damage to the cultivation and deprives the 50 odd year old factories of badly needed maintenance.

At the same time to complete the pantomime, there is a release from the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) in today’s newspapers (May 12) telling the rice farmers that they should keep to the principle of May-June being the traditional times for the mid-year rain, so they must plant their rice with these facts in mind, since apparently several thousand acres of rice will fall victim to this lack of guidance from the MOA which is now exhibiting 20/20 vision after the fact, although GuySuCo is planning to carry the industry’s first crop to July. I am reminded of the saying ‘Physician heal thyself.’

I understand that one of the directors of this ailing and fast collapsing industry,who knows nothing about sugar, has been brought here from the US, where he resides, for the board meetings with all of the expenses which that entails – airfare, hotel accommodation, etc, financed by the corporation. The rest of the Board of GuySuCo except for one former manager know nothing about the sugar industry, and are taking us into a tailspin of economic disaster and chaos. The day-to-day management of the industry also shows every indication that all of us should be alarmed at their lack of competence.

For the first time in known history Skeldon (6,596 tonnes) produced less sugar than Uitvulgt (6,944 tonnes), but we did not spend US$200 million ($40 billion) rebuilding the Uitvlugt factory and expanding cultivation; we spent it at Skeldon to produce the lowest amount of sugar in the 2012 first crop than any other factory in the entire industry.

The rest of the industry did not perform up to par either. In 2011 in the first crop Albion produced 28,504 tonnes of sugar; in 2012 it only produced 16,135 tonnes up to the weekend of May 6. Rose Hall also did not do as well as 2011; they produced 10,640 tonnes this year compared to 15,430 tonnes last year in the first crop. At Blairmont in 2011 they made 17,611 tonnes, and as of the weekend May 6, 2012 they have produced only 10,122 tonnes. At the end of the first crop last year the LBI factory was closed and all of the cane from LBI is now being ground at the Enmore factory. One has to question this decision, however, since in 2012 LBI/Enmore only made 8,246 tonnes compared to 2011 when Enmore-LBI combined produced 13,452 tonnes – a drop of nearly 50%. Wales produced 8615 tonnes in 2012 compared to 10,752 tonnes last year; Uitvlugt produced 6999 tons in 2012 compared to 10,442 last year.

And the sinking flagship at Skeldon, a monument to Mr Jagdeo’s disastrous tenure as president of this republic and the incompetence of Robert Persaud and the Board of GuySuCo, produced 10,435 tonnes in 2011 and only 6,596 in 2012.

Words, Editor, cannot adequately describe the extent of this disaster we have left for our children, but the word Titanic comes to mind.

There should be an immediate commission of enquiry into this situation. I am calling on the opposition to use their power in the Parliament to demand it. It is almost superfluous to add that to allow the same company which left us with this monstrous disaster in our sugar industry, to rebuild our already inefficient and expensive GPL system defies logic or understanding, and that too should be the subject of a commission of enquiry.

Yours faithfully,
Tony Vieira

source: stabroeknews


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