Home Letters Future of sugar industry (GuySuCo) in Guyana
Since the change of Government in August, many persons have made suggestions of one kind or another in Guyana Times to resuscitate the dying sugar industry or to be more specific GuySuCo, which is fast heading into the sunset due to policies made and executed by previous PPP and APNU/AFC Governments.
Fortunately, GuySuCo has been kept alive because of political and party imperatives but under its present structure, it will never become a viable industry even with the input of a large capital investment, diversification and a team of excellent managers with top personnel (not political hacks) brimming with optimism to turn it around because of the reasons given hereunder.
Firstly, sugar cannot be produced in Guyana at a competitive price because of the climatic and environmental factors under which it is cultivated. Currently, it takes GuySuCo fourteen (14) tonnes of harvested cane to produce one (1) tonne sugar while elsewhere in the world (Brazil) it takes about eight (8) tonnes of cane to produce one (1) tonne of sugar. This differential could possibly be changed but not by much since such critical variables as sucrose content of the harvested cane cannot be easily changed to increase the sugar produced.
Secondly, it has been proposed by Tony Vieira, a Guyanese sugar expert and former GuySuCo Board Member and others including Donald Ramotar, a former President of Guyana and GuySuCo Board Member that the industry could be viable if the sugar produced could be diversified into the production of other products such as ethanol. In the USA, ethanol is being produced from corn and subsidised but the industry continues to lose money causing many of its plants to close down. Usually, ethanol is mixed with gasoline to power cars and other equipment but it is more expensive than gasoline, the cost for which has been dropping because of low demand and oversupply of crude oil. Gasoline price is projected to drop further because motor vehicles are being converted from being powered by gasoline to electricity and more crude oil is coming on stream from Guyana, Libya, Venezuela and elsewhere. Therefore, ethanol is unlikely to compete with gasoline and become a profitable product for GuySuCo in the foreseeable future.
The Government cannot, for political and party imperatives, continue to subsidise a heavily indebted GuySuCo indefinitely without a road map for the development of the sugar lands devoid of sugar cultivation to find meaningful employment for all the displaced workers. Many worthwhile suggestions have already been made by concerned citizens. These include the development of dairying, livestock, aquaculture and the cultivation of crops such as bananas/plantains, citrus, coffee, avocados, mangoes and coconuts. The road map has to quickly transform into pilot projects to establish which product is viable for a hungry market out there and can create good-paying jobs for the many displaced workers now on the bread line.