GAWU supports cash-strapped GuySuCo bailout

As the cash woes of the sugar industry deepen, calls for another bailout to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) have been made by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU).

In an interview with Guyana Times on Wednesday, President of GAWU Komal Chand said the fact that GuySuCo is a State-run enterprise; he is in agreement for Government to appropriate additional funds to provide assistance to the struggling company.

GAWU President Komal Chand
GAWU President Komal Chand

Chand suggested that bearing in mind the size and importance of the industry, it should not be allowed to fail.

“[The union is] very much supportive of the Government assisting the ailing sugar industry which we all agree is too big to fail. The industry is owned by the State – the Government having all the shares of the industry”

“We are calling on the Government to assist the industry as is required from time to time [and] we also wish to remind the public that the industry in the better days [did] make a contribution to the treasury [especially from 1976 to 1996] when $ 60 billion was made available through the sugar levy,” Chand noted.

While the GAWU President declined to comment on the impact of the near 30,000 tonnes shortfall in the sugar industry’s most recent crop, he observed that the second crop is on target.

“We understand from the Chairman that the second crop will be on target,” the GAWU President noted in reference to the 159,243 tonnes as projected by GuySuCo for the second crop.

After a review of the first crop for 2016, the Sugar Corporation announced that it experienced a shortfall of 29.3 per cent with actual production of 56,825 tonnes compared with a budget of 80,270 tonnes. While GuySuCo stated that an audit is underway, it also advised that it is not expected that the final figure would “vary significantly”.

The Sugar Corporation attributed the short fall to the El Niño weather conditions which it said “severely dried out the canes” which led to constrained cane growth and reduced sugar content.

“The shortfall is bound to have significant financial implications for an already cash-strapped industry. It would therefore necessitate management considering further strategies for re-organisation of the industry with a view of making the Corporation a viable business entity,” a statement from GuySuCo added.

Chairman of GuySuCo, Dr Clive Thomas has reportedly opined that the Corporation would need another bailout, as over 60 per cent of its allocations were utilised. According to reports, the Chairman is of the view that the Corporation has no other choice than to appeal for a new bail-out

While Dr Thomas did not specify exactly how much funds are being sought, Government has not publicly consented to another bail-out for the cash-strapped industry. It was only on Friday last that sugar workers attached to the Wales Estate were set to engage in protest action after GuySuCo was late in issuing salaries. Guyana Times learnt that after workers made these threats, the Sugar Corporation hurriedly procured the funds to issue payments.

In January, central government transferred to GuySuCo, some $9 billion to assist in its operations.